Adelaide Festival

Festival Review: Sunn O))) and Magma

This has to have been one of the biggest alternative music events of the decade, even though it was only two bands playing a handful of songs.

Presented by Adelaide Festival
Reviewed 12 March 2016

This has to have been one of the biggest alternative music events of the decade, even though it was only two bands playing a handful of songs. With bands like Magma and Sunn O))), though, every single note explodes, and every bar is a vast world in it’s own right.

This concert was an absolutely spectacular way to celebrate the final weekend of the Adelaide Festival. It’s best to go out with a bang, after all, and if the bang is extended into an apocalyptic drone with lots of smoke and lighting effects, well, that’s even cooler.

Magma is a French prog-rock group founded in 1969 by the incredibly creative Christian Vander. With almost fifty years of life, experience and evolution within the band, Magma has become something truly legendary. Slamming away at instruments like high-speed machines and singing in a mysterious, alien language (Kobaïan, if you’re interested in doing a bit of research!), Magma’s live performance was fast paced, amazingly complex yet never chaotic. There was a sense that, even through the din of blustering notes, everything was crafted in a particular, esoteric way, as if Vander and his crew were privilege to some alien knowledge on music-making.

At the same time, this means that Magma’s music can go over the heads of us mere mortals, leaving us in the dust. It’s all too easy to get lost in their sprawling, narrative-heavy soundscapes, especially if you don’t speak the language!

After Magma’s high-speed and eccentric art rock came to an explosive end, the tone of the night turned around considerably. Doom was coming… And the crowd couldn’t have been more excited.

Sunn O))) have quite a reputation in their US home and also around the world for their extreme performances. You don’t go to a Sunn O))) show without hearing protection, even if you’re a veteran metal-head. If you’ve ever wondered what sound feels like, you can find out by standing in front of Sunn’s amps.

Sunn O))) walked up onto stage in mystical, creepy robes, slowly lifted up their instruments, then their hands, and then there was holy noise. This continued for a good hour and a half, moving through the cosmos on a wave of all-encompassing sound. It was easy to forget you were even at a show, instead you were transported to the altar of some terrible and ancient underwater god, while giant cosmic creatures floated over head… Honestly, if you let it, that’s the sort of place you can go with this music guiding you.

Even if you can’t particularly follow the lyrics, or the well-hidden melodies and intricacies, to see Sunn O))) live is just an experience in itself. Their music is hardly accessible, but why would you want it to be? It’s loud, it’s enormous, it’s actually out-of-this-world.

This has been a historic moment for our humble little Adelaide, and for the world of music!

Reviewed by James Rudd
Twitter: @james_wrr

Venue: Thebarton Theatre, 112 Henley Beach Road
Season:  12 March 2016
Duration: 3 hours, 30 minutes, including interval


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