Monoliths & Dimensions, the seventh studio album from Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley's high-concept ensemble SunnO))), continues the band's tradition of alienating meat-and-potato metalheads while winning over experimental-music enthusiasts. It benefits from composer Eyvind Kang's adept and often subtle string and horn arrangements. But this isn't SunnO))) with the San Francisco Symphony — this is dynamic instrumentation that informs the band's literal wall of sound just as much as it's affected by it. While 2006's Black One evoked an inexorable sense of immediacy, Monoliths & Dimensions is a more patient, mature work with a wide range of dynamics.
"Aghartha" opens with the expected purgatory of guitars and develops slowly, as Attila Csihar recites poetry about "the hollow Earth" in low, guttural tones. The additional accompanists are understated and deliberate here, careful to take part in the musical conversation without dominating it, save for an appropriately assertive piano line provided by avant-jazz saxophonist Eric Walton (a.k.a. Skerik). Fans of Sunn0)))'s older material will feel right at home with "Hunting & Gathering," an outright riff jam with a male choir to boot. The widest orbits around the group's core of distorted and saturated tones are "Big Church" and "Alice." The former utilizes a women's choir led by Jessika Kenney and pauses for a haunting ceremonial bell. The latter blossoms from uncharacteristically warm guitars to verdant classical passages that evoke the slogan "maximum volume yields maximum results." — Nick DeMarino
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