I'm slightly pained to admit how well it works. My initial instinct was to be turned off by the natural bloat of the collaboration's ambition. The opening track, "Brando," has a guitar lead reminiscent of the cheesy Guns N' Roses anthem "Sweet Child O' Mine" over Walker's opening stanza. Guitar heroics, however brief, have never been Sunn O)))'s bag, and Walker starts out as oblique as ever, opening with a context-free reference to the Missouri River. But as the album becomes more familiar, you realize that Greg Anderson and Stephen O'Malley's group is actually firing on all cylinders as a backing band. This makes sense, given the album's backstory: Sunn O))) originally asked Walker to collaborate on their 2009 record Monoliths & Dimensions. That never happened, but Walker eventually volleyed back, asking Sunn O))) if they'd work with him on a set of songs he'd written with them in mind. As accompanists, they fearlessly match Walker's pitch-black melodrama.
On "Herod 2014," we hear a biblical tale of infanticide. The art metallers, as comfortable with avant-horn arrangements as they are Model T amplifiers, use anemic brass to imitate screaming babies. More impressive is synth man Peter Walsh's ability to produce atonal textures that sound like a murder of crows. The album's most metal composition, "Bull," begins with Walker shouting a sick nursery rhyme and ends with the Seattle doom merchants ringing a chord out for a solid five minutes.
Though Sunn O))) has collaborated and toured with black metal singers like Malefic (who recorded vocals for the track "Báthory Erzsébet"while inside a casket), it's the 71-year-old Walker who seems most at home plumbing the depths of human depravity. In the excellent documentary 30th Century Man, Walker tries to explain his change in lyrical perspective over the decades by saying, "I've had very bad dreams all my life." On Soused he waxes apocalyptic, summoning "quilts of corpses" and "acne on lepers." It truly is the stuff of nightmares.