The Holy Down

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Here is all you need to know to begin: Grave Temple Trio's members are Stephen O'Malley (Sunn 0))); Khanate; KTL; Lotus Eaters) on guitars; Oren Ambarchi (Phlegm among others), on guitar, drums and bells, and Attila Csihar (Anaal Nathrakh) on vocals. Ambarchi and Csihar play in Burial Chamber Trio with Greg Anderson (Sunn 0)))) instead of O'Malley. This trio formed to play a series of shows in Israel in the summer of 2006. The second Israeli-Lebanese war began less than week before these gigs took place. The trio recorded shows during the war, with bombs and missiles landing all over the country. With a screamer like Csihar, and power drone and effects freaks like O'Malley and Ambarchi, one would expect this to be an unloading of sonic hell on-stage. And you'd be partially right. What matters is how they get there. The Holy Down is a single work, just over an hour in length, that develops very slowly. Ambarchi noodles a while, establishing a slower-than-cough syrup series of brooding, quietly unfolding patters and begins to layer effects over them, very sporadically at first, as O'Malley uses his guitar at feedback level, but restrains it to the point where tension is practically dripping out of the speakers. Csihar's vocals begin as sinister whispers and low-end croaks (aping Tibetan monks in places, but if he's actually saying anything at all, one can be sure it's not the melding of wisdom and compassion). The first 20 minutes is like being in a dank, cold unfamiliar place without a light. It's absolute darkness. At about the 20-minute mark, Ambarchi's playing becomes more animated, more angular; foreign sounds emanate from the void, and O'Malley reaches into his feedback trick bag and begins laying out deep, slowly droning bass note dronescapes. The tension builds until about 25 minutes in, when it all starts to crack, the black monolith Grave Temple have erected is packed to the gills with sounds that can no longer be held and the hell-bent processional begins in earnest. Even in sub-volume terms this is tense music, but when it begins to come unglued, the level is ratcheted up to almost unbearable levels. For the next 35 minutes, listeners are treated to some completely unhinged, terribly insane droning and feedback, crashing, painful drumming, nearly inhuman screaming, and overwrought six-strings tuned to the sub-basement of the universe. They achieve what Csihar claimed they would: "Bring the war to the stage." The band seems to know just when it becomes unbearable as all that volume and madness begins to gnaw at their bowels -- not to mention scrambling their minds. This is body music. When the huge wall of noise gaps in short spaces it's almost a relief, only to become even thicker, wider and taller with each go round into the realm of truly frightening. This moves the Sunn 0)))/ Earth heavy metal drone to a different place, a new orbit, that is disturbing, almost unlistenable, and drenched in power. This is music that hurts, the music of war. It's bloody brilliant. [The Holy Down has been released in a limited edition of 3000 numbered copies on Southern Lord. Get one.]

Track Listing

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