Release DetailsRELEASED ON 4/1/2014
This isn't Come My Fanatics or Holy Mountain, but that Empress Rising can even see those smoke-covered early peaks from where it stands is quite an achievement.
Empress Risingposted on 3/2014 By:
Sweden must be Swedish for riffs. Monolord is the latest in a long line of skonking hot retro doom mongers to call Sweden home, though their fabled past isn't the trendy one of bell bottoms and pagan rituals. Monolord sit firmly in the 90s doom revival of Sleep and Electric Wizard; theirs is a more rough-hewn, psychedelic version of that malevolent strain, but it's cutting from the same stem.
Comparisons to those proven masters rarely do a band any favors, but when they spring so readily to mind from the first note it's an inevitable one that must be addressed. This isn't Come My Fanatics or Holy Mountain, but that Empress Rising can even see those smoke-covered early peaks from where it stands is quite an achievement.
Monolord is able to do this because they have a combined guitar and bass tone that clogs the lungs and empties the bowels. The low end rumble from Mika Häkki isn't thunderous, but it's a sphincter twitcher; resonant and full, with a sustain that goes on just that bit too long to be comfortable. When Thomas V Jäger joins above it in the mid-range, his guitar-sound fills all available space. It's an almost inky liquid sound, complete with burbles of distortion on every sustained chord.
With Jäger and Häkki so intent on replacing oxygen with their own sonic smoke, it's left to drummer Esben Williams to provide motion. His kicks and toms fight valiantly to move the dense low end forward, with somewhat mixed results. Too often he's crowded out of the bottom range by Häkki. However, the snares and cymbals are bright and clear, often carrying the songs or clearing enough head room for Jäger's vocals to come to the fore. As with the kicks and toms, that thick ichor of sound occasionally holds back the vocal clarity amidst the choking haze. It's not as big a sticking point as the drums, because it serves to highlight them all the more when they step to the front of the mix. But it's extremely noticeable, whether purposeful or not, and calls undue attention to itself when it occurs.
When Monolord find the right balance, the result is a stunning example of 90s-tinged doom. Opening track "Harbinger of Death" is them at their most Electric Wizard, and would fit nicely on Witchcult Today; high praise indeed, and most deserved for this head-nodding groove. On the slow creep of "Audhumbla", they sublimate the Sleep influence and find their own somnambulistic style, with that gut-churning effect described before acting not as a side effect but a featured player, roiling and rolling before stepping back to let the listener breathe, then swooping back in for another round.
Empress Rising is a promising debut. While the debt to their influences is still at times overwhelming, there is more than enough here to both enjoy now and to peg Monolord as a band to watch in the future.