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Mat Colegate , August 24th, 2015 14:50

Mat Colegate reports on the Meltdown performance that blew 40 lightbulbs at the Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall. All photos by Samantha Hayley.

I arrive to see Sunn O))) at The Royal Festival Hall brimming with welcome thoughts of annihilation. I want to be pulverised, obliterated, extinguished, butchered, pounded into a rattling meat sack, battered into broth, totalled, destroyed, blotted out by riffs the size of cumuli until my natural warmth sours, demolished piece by piece, atom by sticky atom.

I want my face torn into flapping glots by Attila Cshisar's carrion shrieks, every vibration of Stephen O'Malley's gloom axe to crackle through my torso like a viciously reproductive nanovirus, the hammer of Greg Anderson to come down on me like Godzilla's foot onto a children's playground.

I want it so loud that it reaches inside and tears out my ribcage through my throat, that it coils inside my intestines and releases poisonous spores, so loud that the volume becomes a solid wall, that poor quality workmanship destined to fall onto my fragile, passing bonce, a hod of pure volume, carried by the village idiot, dropped onto the Mayor's daughter. And the Mayor's daughter is me.

A cataclysm, an apocalypse in treacle-slow motion, the end of all songs, the murder of the oxygen, the ringing of ten thousand bells in the deepest, darkest places of the earth, sacred Agharta aflame, the giant unblinking eye of The Great And Unspeakable One hovering over mankind's asthmatic smoke stacks and twig-thin 'developments'. I wanted to be driven mad by riffs the size of moons, liquidated and nullified so that any trace of my existence was removed forever, squashed into a stain on my comfortable seat, eradicated, obscured by twin suns the size and shape of misery, I wanted my lack of hope confirmed by impossible architectures of pure, maddening monumentalism.

But it isn't really loud enough for all that.

What I get instead is a group of men wearing robes, drinking and occasionally sticking their hands in the air whilst playing very slow riffs. And it's great. Not awesome, not monumental, but great. Terrific. Much of this greatness is provided by Attila's unfathomable voice. When, in the dying minutes of the show, dressed in a reflective laser cape and spiked crown, he begins shrieking like an innocent on a burning stake, the whole affair finally becomes moving. It speaks of a deeply personal pain that counteracts and humanises Anderson and O'Malley's mythology-sized tectonic riffage.

But at that volume, in the rarefied environment of the Royal Festival Hall, plastic pint pot balanced on my knee, the effect is less that of a maddening and unspeakable moonlight ritual and more suggestive of the eccentric Maypole traditions carried on by the village the other side of the hill. This is more my fault than Sunn O)))'s. Undoubtedly I have expected too much and I can't attain the required focus. Seen again, under different circumstances, when I'm suited to purpose and fit and limber and happy to enter into Sunn O)))'s twilight pact, the results would be different. If the music can't kill you, then what are you listening to it for?