Sunn O))) to play Hopscotch 2012

Submitted on Mar 27, 2012

In 2010, there was simply this question: “Are you available to play Hopscotch, a new music festival in North Carolina, this year?” Nope, said the band we'd wanted from the start. In 2011, there were actual plans—discussions of dates and lineups, flights and equipment, tour vans and tour stops. But in the end, the logistics didn’t make sense. Finally, a member of the band we’d been bugging for two years admitted that, for all the back and forth, next year might simply work better.

He was right. Hopscotch is thrilled to announce its first act of 2012, an engagement nearly three years in the making: The drone metal pioneers Sunn O))) will play their first announced North American tour date since September 2010—at Hopscotch, in Memorial Auditorium, on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. It will be loud, ecstatic and maybe even legendary, the sort of massive show precisely intended for Raleigh’s most storied room.

For the uninitiated, Sunn O))) began nearly 15 years ago in the Pacific Northwest before relocating to California. At its core, Sunn O)))’s music equals a sort of heavy metal gestalt, meaning that they take all of the form’s motion, dynamism and mania and slow it down until nothing seems to be happening. The delight is in the details, or in the way that the music’s inherent sense of suspense steadily sublimates into complete satisfaction. They’ve long abided by the motto “Maximum volume yields maximum results,” and live, they play through an armada of amplifiers and a sea of smoke, focusing the listener’s attention on the tiniest musical shifts. Even though Sunn O))) sometimes sound scary as hell (and look it, too, in their infamous “Grimm Robes”), every Sunn O))) piece and performance feels like the heaviest relief.

Formed by old friends and bandmates Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, Sunn O))) was an escape for two musicians who were getting busier and busier in their other acts. They’d simply go into a rehearsal room, plug into massive stacks of equipment and slowly roar through heavy metal riffs, all in homage to their metal heroes, Earth. But while plenty of acts begin with references to their stylistic antecedents, plenty of acts don’t move past them as immediately and entirely as Sunn O))), one of the most restless bands in all of music. Across each of their six albums, they’ve suggested new syntheses and possibilities by trussing tradition to surprising tradition, style to disparate style. On 2005’s beastly Black One, they covered black metal champs Immortal at glacial speed and locked willing collaborator Malefic in a casket so that he might make his vocals sound, well, more terrifying. On the stunning Monoliths & Dimensions, they employed nearly three-dozen musicians to transform their hermetic crawl into a kaleidoscopic sprawl, where orchestral splendor came chased by crestfallen riffs. Sunn O))) has made an entire album with Japanese metal firebrands Boris and has long served as a revolving door for legends and legends-in-the-making within the world of experimental music. Meanwhile, Anderson has run the monumental record label Southern Lord, and O’Malley has remained incredibly prolific through projects like Khanate and KTL. They’re as busy with and as serious about what they do as any two musicians you’ll ever see.

In Raleigh, Sunn O))) will play as a quartet. Anderson and O’Malley will be joined by Attila Csihar, a Hungarian icon in his own right for his roles in Mayhem and Tormentor and for his ability to rant, to rave and, when the time is right, to throat-sing in the tradition of his region. A performance artist and a provocateur, Csihar is one of the most compelling frontmen in music. In front of Sunn O))), he affords the tides of sound at his back the bleeding edge of suggestion, moving such massive music to a place of subtly fragmented theater.

That sense of synesthesia finds a welcoming home in Memorial Auditorium, Hopscotch’s biggest indoor venue and a stage meant to work for music and drama. In September, it will very loudly work for both. —Grayson Currin

Tickets to the Hopscotch Music Festival are available here. The complete Hopscotch lineup will be announced April 18th. Please stay tuned for more announcements in the coming weeks.

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