Sunn O))), Royal Festival Hall, review: Hypnotic splendour from gods of drone

The drone metal band's gigs have acquired a mythic status

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The Independent Culture

For the second night of this year’s eclectic Meltdown festival, curator David Byrne invited US drone metal band Sunn O))) to appear with support act Phurpa.

Phurpa are a Russia-based group that combines Tibetan instruments with guttural, overtone singing. They took to the stage in dark robes, sat in a circle; incense rose. A shamanistic ritual? It wasn’t far off.

Some say Sunn O)))’s gigs can give you a nosebleed, and the band have acquired a mythic status. Layers of low-frequency guitar created an immersive soundscape; a shroud of fog concealed shadowy figures gliding round the stage. Their performances ignore the usual timescales in music, adding to the confusing hypnotism of the spectacle.

Two-thirds of the way through, frontman Attila Csihar left the stage only to return in a magnificent costume of shards of Perspex. He grabbed at the air, sporadically releasing high-pitched bellows, intensifying what was an almost visceral experience. The show ended with members of the audience moving towards the stage and into the fog, arms raised in a salute to the gods of drone. I didn’t see any nosebleeds, but was left utterly astounded.