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Total Eclipse of the Heart

This is the kind of heavy where your intestines rub against each other from the bass and you alternate between ecstasy and doomed grief every couple of seconds.
December 1, 2004, 12:00am

Photo by Glynnis McDaris

There is heavy, like Slayer, where you bang your head and wonder how the fuck he can play that riff so fast and then still make it back to the other riff without breaking his wrist. And that's cool. That's all well and good.

But then there is heavy like the way SUNN O))) (just pronounce it "sun") is heavy. This is the kind of heavy where your intestines rub against each other from the bass and you alternate between ecstasy and doomed grief every couple of seconds. This is slow motion heavy metal drone. Want to know what SUNN O))) sound like? Drink a bottle of cough syrup, put on your favorite Sabbath record, drop a five-pound weight in the center of the turntable, and lay down with your head between the speakers. That's SUNN O))).

The new record, White2, lasts about an hour and is only three tracks long. That's right, three blackened stoned dinosaurs of subsludge riffs. That's all it is, and it's plenty.

SUNN O))) recordings have included guests as heavy as Japanese noise hero Merzbow, Joe Preston (whose post-Melvins project Earth is the only band as lumbering as SUNN O))) and a big influence on them), and professional weird British guy Julian Cope. The core of SUNN 0))) is Stephen O'Malley (also of math metal lords Khanate), Greg Anderson (co-owner, with Stephen, of Southern Lord Records), and Rex Ritter (who controls the Moog synths that make the floor at most SUNN O))) shows a lake of involuntarily loosened bodily fluids).

Stephen O'Malley talked to us from his New York home, and guess what? He didn't really fit in at his high school. What a fucking shock.

VICE: What were you like when you were in school?
Stephen: I was the only death metal kid in my whole school. The only metal kid at all, really. The kids I was able to hang out with were all the hardcore straight edgers.

I don't think they're really into drone music.
 No, but for some reason my high school had a bagpipe band. I joined that when I was 14. It was definitely an after-school activity that attracted outcasts.

Bagpipes are a total drone thing though, right?
Oh yeah. You know those three things that go over a bagpiper's shoulder? Those are even called "drones." Another weird thing is that bagpipes are tuned close to A, which is where most SUNN O))) stuff is based.

But why the hell would a public high school near Seattle have a bagpipe band?
I still don't know. But our mascot was this maniacal Scotsman and the head janitor, this total Scottish lush, led the bagpipe combo.

That's just fucking weird.
I know. But I started smoking a bunch of pot and cigarettes when I was 18 so I can't even think about playing the bagpipes now anyway. It takes like a year to get your lungs strong enough.

SUNN O)))'sWhite2 is out now on Southern Lord Records.