Sound: Just short of two years after the long awaited return to form that was "Two Minute Terror", Bristol's very own Sunna, operating with singer/songwriter Jon Harris as it's core member, has again risen to the delight of it's loyal fanbase with "After The Third Pin".
Sunna had it all back in 2000/2001, touring worldwide with the likes of the Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect Circle, until corruption of the music industry took hold and Sunna were dropped from their record label at the height of their power, resulting in a torturous few years for mainman Jon Harris, during which fans never thought they would hear from Sunna again.
The impossible happened in 2009 when Jon reunited with former Sunna guitarist Ian MacLaren, to complete their second album "Two Minute Terror". Fans were overjoyed, and although music piracy had taken its toll on Sunna, both for Harris financially, and also dashing any hopes of the band touring anytime soon, Sunna carried on gaining momentum and building up to the release of album number three.
After two more terribly testing years for Jon Harris, involving the passing of his closest friend, the loss of his home and culminating with a relapse back into substance abuse, Jon once again defied the odds and put himself back into Sunna to finish what could be his finest release to date - "After The Third Pin".
"After The Third Pin" comes in where "Two Minute Terror" left off, combining the solid production of "One Minute Science", along with it's electronic rock and pulsating grooves, with the impending darkness and ambient flourishes of "Two Minute Terror". The Album has a brilliant flow, with a mixture of headbang-worthy rockers ("Forced Attrition", "Razing The Damned"), thought provoking acoustic numbers ("Stutter", "After The Third Pin"), and beat driven, almost hypnotic tracks peppered with signature Bristol-sound darkness ("Too Good", "Dirt & Soda"). All Sunna albums are in a way documentations of Jon's life, be it bad or good. "ATTP" is no exception, as heard throughout...
01. "Suffer The Pain" - Beginning with ambient sounds, the track kicks in as a great opener, not a million miles away from "Spider" from "TMT", as far as striking first impressions go. A strong chorus to boot!
02. "Forced Attrition" - Nice and heavy, with a great riff, and although something about this song reminds me of early 00's metal awkwardly, there's enough going on to keep me listening. I think I can hear a Gonkulator pedal being used in the bridge, which gets brownie points from me.
03. "Too Good" - A great dark atmosphere sets up some electronic beats, this song wanders along but doesn't send me crazy. The chorus is catchy though, very well written. The guitar solo is the standout of this track for me.
04. "Razing The Damned" - A song I was looking forward to hearing after Jon performed it on Radio Iasi in Romania, the lyrics mysteriously featured in the booklet for "Two Minute Terror" too, which was a fun little easter egg. The song has been beefed up bigtime, and is a true anthem, worthy of single release. One of my favourites from the album.
05. "Dirt & Soda" - My true favourite from "ATTP". This song brings out all that I love about Sunna, and has a Massive Attack-feel to it that makes it a must-hear. The track harkens back to OMS musically and vocally, but has a more refined quality about it.
06. "Hold Me Tight" - A very eastern influenced song as far as the guitar playing and melodies go, which is interesting given Jon's time spent working on a Kibbutz in Israel. I am not the biggest fan of this song as I feel it could have been cut in half length-wise, but the melody is still killer, so I can't write it off completely. Somewhat reminiscent of "Eyes" from "Two Minute Terror".
07. "Feel The Blade" - Another Rocker, If I am correct, this was debuted along with "Razing The Damned" by Jon in Romania under the name "Perfect Trilogy", however I might be wrong. The chorus is another belter, and weirdly enough, the middle eighth vocal melody is similar to that of "I'm Not Trading", arguably Sunna's biggest hit. Kudos to Jon's son, Sid for providing guitar on this track, it adds a fantastic touch.
08. "After The Third Pin" - A welcome change of pace here, taking form in a slow acoustic number debuted by Jon as "Brown" in Romania. This is a very deep song with heartfelt lyrics, as Jon wrote this song for his best friend who sadly passed away in 2010. The instrumentation is textured in the song, and although I am not fond of the Banjo being used in Rock Music, I feel it is something that makes Sunna stand out, and that it is used to good effect here.
09. "Emoticon Expression" - Another favourite of mine, a sleek bass fill gives way to a futuristic sounding drum/guitar combination, with Jon's processed vocals creating a winner of a song. The chorus is somewhat uplifting, and the song is a strong head towards the peak of the album.
10. "No Money" - This track kicks off with a menacing bass guitar line that leads into short verses, and epic choruses that feature some of Jon's finest vocal work on the album in my opinion, really showing his range.
11. "Stutter" - The official final song on the album, another acoustic track. First heard on a UK based Rock Radio station in acoustic form, the album version is a polished up lament, with more vocal effects on Jon's singing. The song acts as a bittersweet ending to the album, and works in the same way "Alice" did to "Two Minute Terror".
12. Bonus Track - "Feel The Blade (Acoustic)" - The title sums it up really, a bonus acoustic take on "Feel The Blade", which is the version Jon premiered on Radio Iasi again if I am correct. The vocal overdubs compliment the song, and it transfers well from a heavy song to an acoustic take.
The Sunna sound evolves, yet remains totally recognizable, and that's the way it should be. This is an album with a wealth of styles cleverly weaved together, it's good to have Sunna back. // 8
Lyrics: Sunna's songs have always had very personal lyrics. Jon has admitted in interviews that his life experiences play a big part in Sunna's lyrical content, and that is no more evident than in "After The Third Pin"'s songs. "The Third Pin" itself has been used to refer to the third cross that was nailed into Jesus Christ.
Alas, Jon calls upon Biblical themes, Social and Dream-like wordplay, and pure unadulterated aggression throughout the album, but the biggest standout lyrically is the song "After The Third Pin".
Written as a tribute, the song deals bluntly with drug abuse, and its consequences. Lines such as "I wear withdrawal like a crown... But I'm in hell, where gold is brown", and "Nobody burns like my body burns, 'cos I am hell in love with Brown" are hard hitting, and deeply personal. The song leaves a mark as being one of Jon's most thoughtful and deep.
Songs such as "Emoticon Expression" and "Suffer The Pain" deal with lies, aggression and general anger, whereas "Dirt & Soda" deals with a Dark Mentality, and again Drug Abuse.
As far as Sunna album lyrics go, I believe this is the most personal yet, and mirrors the past few years of Jon's life, that have gone 100% into making the album.
Jon's singing as always is on form, a Cobain-esqe rasp that has matured since the last album. The lyrics fit the albums mood with ease, like a jigsaw. It's business as usual for Sunna. // 9
Overall Impression: Sunna have always struck me as a mixture of Nirvana's grungy heaviness with Massive Attack's trip hop tendencies - A mixture of pulsing electronica, atmospheric ambience and crushing heaviness.
"After The Third Pin" stands strong in the Sunna repertoire, mixing many styles and although sometimes hitting and sometimes missing, the album is always interesting, and with every listen one can delve deeper into the fabric of the music and lyrics.
The instrumentation is tight, and Jon sounds on form, as a big fan of his music, it is hard not to sound biased, and It is understandable that nowadays people do not want to veer from what they usually listen to, but for the grassroots approach Sunna have been forced to take, they deserve a listen, as there is a lot of history involved in their story.
The album's production (Courtesy of Eds John) gives each song extra depth and character, and really brings out the best in them. The songs are well written and the flow of the album keeps it interesting throughout, as all Sunna's albums have.
I must admit to preferring the heavier, darker, more atmospheric pieces to the acoustic ones ("Dirt & Soda", "Emoticon Expression"), and will usually skip a couple of tracks to get to them, but there is nothing I hate here, it is a well-crafted album that has taken blood, sweat and tears to create, and you can damn well hear it in the final product.
I would recommend it to those into heavier music, the album stands strong amongst todays artists, and is certainly relevant, especially to those who take an unsigned D.I.Y approach like Sunna do. There is real talent out there, and if you want to hear some, get your hands on "After The Third Pin". // 9