To say that baroque pop legend Scott Walker and drone/doom titans Sunn O))) teaming up together for a record being odd is slightly off base. Sure, the styles from both artists might seem like a disaster on paper, but both have been in talks of releasing a collaboration for a long time but nothing has ever worked out. Sunn O))) has been distracted releasing split albums with artists such as Ulver and Boris to name a few, while Walker has been doing his own work descending into the heavy recesses of his mind on 2012’s Bish Bosch. Walker finally created some music that would work with Sunn O)))’s aesthetic and the final product has been released as Soused. While there are many positives to note on this exciting collaboration, this might be the most disappointing record of the year.
The sound coming off in Soused is exactly what fans of both musicians would expect. There are plenty of bizarre sound bites and samples used by Walker to convey a sinister mood, while Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson bring forth the nasty and doom-filled guitars their fans are akin to loving. This idea in theory should create some truly amazing music, but there are too many roadblocks in the process. The main issue is that this is clearly a Scott Walker album accompanied by limited input by Sunn O))). Scott Walker takes over the record composing and creating all of the songs, which makes the record feel very one-sided. Sunn O))) help set tones of darkness and give most tracks a certain level of depth but never take over in any meaningful way. Scott Walker could have easily released this album without a collaboration and it would have been equally interesting.
That is not to say that there are not any good things to enjoy from Soused. Three of the five tracks are solid and interesting from beginning to end. “Brando” kicks off the record in strong fashion, using Walker’s operatic vocals and faint doomy guitars astoundingly well. The punishment extends toward the lyrics and samples, utilizing a whip sound as a near instrument throughout. “Fetish” is easily the best song on Soused, feeling like a torture track. Sinister tones are what I came to expect from the collaboration and this is the grand example. There is a distinct sense of fear set by dark piano and maracas, while Sunn O))) take over the track at the halfway point by nailing the mood. “Lullaby” is also worth a listen, with bone chilling samples of rattles and Walker changing the pace on a dime .
The other two tracks are riddled with major problems though. “Herod 2014” is the nightmare of how the collaboration could have went wrong. The creepy horns, bells, and drone set off an amazing backdrop for Walker’s outstanding vocal delivery. The song quickly becomes a boring attack that never recovers and sounds like a potential b-side of an early Nine Inch Nails album though. “Bull” is not much better as the heavy tones die after Walker gives up on delivering any lyrical content. It is nice to give Sunn O))) a chance to have their shine but their sound has never been truly thrilling on it’s own. It needs the operatic vocals to illuminate it.
Soused is far from a poor album or low point for both artists involved, but it could be drastically better as well. The potential of a project of this sort has an incredible up-side but this just feels like settling for something decent. Scott Walker could have easily made these songs without anyone else and created the same effect, making the Sunn O))) portion of the collaboration come off as too slight. Fans of both artists will still find something to enjoy, but Soused is ultimately too disappointing for such a massive pedigree to build from.
2. Herod 2014