Friday, June 15, 2012

Metal week: On volume

Amplification and volume create altered states - are psychedelic. Therefore metal is also psychedelic; a music which grips you by lizard brain, by gut and sinew, rather than 'merely' by heart and head.

There's a reason why I wear earplugs to most gigs these days, and it's name is Earth.

I'm at the back of the concert room in The Hare & Hounds, so far away from the stage I'm practically in the doorway, half-reeling, half-dancing. On stage, Dylan Carlson and his band Earth play their metallic instrumental blues very slowly, very loudly. They use their amplifier stacks as a fifth player, as each note from the guitar triggers another reverbration which breaks over and through the audience.

I've had to back away from the stage to a place where I can bear the impact but I'm still overwhelmed by the volume and the music to the point where choice has been taken from me and it's all I can feel.

And this was the comparatively mellow modern incarnation of Earth. Compare and contrast:

1. Earth: Omens and Portents II: Carrion Crow - latter day Earth, wierdly polite and Dad-friendly for home listening, like David Pajo-era Tortoise rocking out (!) even if you can still feel the reverb beneath. 

2. Earth: Tibetan Quaaludes - during the 'inventing drone metal' years.

I haven't yet experienced overlords of volume worship Sunn O))) yet - live and to be honest I'd be a little scared of them in an enclosed space. And that's because they sound like this on record.

3. Sunn O))): Caveman Orthodox
Told you. 

Even on my battered old stereo, with one speaker weaving in and out, this growling treacle-drone of a riff - never mind a song - takes over the fricking room as I type. 

One of the things I want to touch on in another post is how the lines between metal and ritual music have become increasingly blurred for me. Part of that is lyrical, part aesthetic, but some of it is also volume and repetition. Sunn O))) make spiritual music, whether they would describe it as such.

The loudest band I've ever heard were Monarch, at Supersonic 2011. I remember nothing coherent about them save a) they played at a rate that made Sunn O))) sound like speed metal b) they had a female vocalist c) they were so loud they blotted out all rational thought. 

I overuse and misappropriate the word 'awesome', but Monarch were awesome in the no- questions-asked, staggering, definitive sense.

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