Pentemple: a minotauric music, a composite of the modernist and the archaic, an unholy assemblage of droning Minimalism and blackened Doom Metal.
As if Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s etchings of imaginary dungeons had been re-imagined by Brutalist architects: the Baroque intricacies of the stairs and arches, beams, wheels, cables and grates, replaced by colour-depleted and crumbling concrete textures and depressively repetitive angular geometries.
As if the noxious smog that hangs over Throbbing Gristle's desolate, sickly late-1970s-England had descended upon the serene pastoral scenery of Ernst Jünger's Auf den Marmörklippen: fog mixed with industrial smoke and fumes suffocating the bucolic composite landscape that Jünger assembled from the rocks around the Capo Gallo lighthouse at Mondello, from Corfu, from the Rodino valley of Rhodes, from a road which runs along Lake Constance, from the Acropolis and from the cliffs of Rio de Janeiro.
As if Theodor Kittelsen's 1896 illustration "Musstad" ("Decrepitude"; reproduced in the interior sleeve art of Burzum's 1996 album Filosofem) wasn't a naive, Neo-Romantic illustration of a fairytale but a sickening premonition of the extermination camps of the twentieth century.
As if an nth generation washed-out Betamax videocassette tape of Mario Bava's 1961 Viking epic Gli Invasori was restructured by Jack Smith as a trashadelic film experiment: filtered long shots of faux-Norwegian landscapes, medium shots of Viking Flaming Creatures applying corpse paint, flickering shapes and formless cathode tube static, overexposed into fogginess, pulsing and throbbing, spinning and shifting.
Pentemple documents two Sunn 0))) concerts in Australia, which were part of their May 2007 Pacific Rim tour. The collective was made up from disparate elements: besides Californians Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley, the line-up included Dutchman Thomas Nieuwenhuizen (Moog-fiddling Punk), the Australian Oren Ambarchi (Jewish mystic turned sonic investigator), the Hungarian Attila Csihar (onetime heir to the throne of Dead in Mayhem), and finally the Australian Sin Nanna (misanthropic dweller of the Tasmanian rainforest, demented genius behind outsider Black Metal band Striborg).
From this Unholy gathering a collective, simultaneously improvised music emerged: an immense rumbling cloud-like drone, constantly churned up by Csihar's growls, chants, and whispers, and by Sin Nanna's almost Free Jazz drumming. Listening to the musicians communicate musically, one hears delirious concentration, brutal sensitivity and blind imagination. The resultant raw material (raw in all senses of the word) was recorded live to a 24-track/multi-track, and it was subsequently operated into consistency or consolidation by Ambarchi.
Mysterious and electrifying, Pentemple has been in semi-constant rotation ever since I bought it five days ago. It works much better than Gravetemple's "The Holy Down", a live album which documents a July 2006 collaboration of O'Malley, Anderson and Ambarchi in Tel Aviv, Israel. Compared to that album, Pentemple is more varied: it arranges decades of Doom and Black Metal and (Un-)Holy Minimalism into a single moonsick landscape of dissonance. The interior of the sound is an interior environment which an intrepid listener may explore at his own peril.
In fact, one might call Pentemple's music an aural form of Land Art. Like Land Art, Pentemple offers simplicity of form and concentrates on the (sonic) materials themselves. Both Land Art and Pentemple have an affinity with Minimalism. Land Art and Pentemple employ cthonic materials, abject materials traditionally considered "un-artistic" or "worthless" (earth and Metal). The fact that nearly all of the first wave of Land Artists were male, and worked in a manner that was both invasive and transformative, gave the art form a reputation for being driven by testosterone; likewise, Metal is strongly associated with masculinity. Land Art combines the archaic and the modern by raising paleolithic monuments to adress the very contemporary issue of an environment destroyed by technology; Pentemple harnesses the power of electricity to make an image flash up of the archaic past as a maze in which one would lose one's way.
"In the heart of the labyrinth, Theseus has no thought of return, he is not worried about getting out, he anxiously desires the Minotaur." (sourced here).
Here are three YouTube videos of the Pentemple concert at the HiFi Bar in Melbourne on May 9, 2007. The poor sound of the videos in no way reflects the aural majesty of the album.