One long track. Not exactly a fresh concept anymore, but there we are. Personally I never got the point of an hour long song, but that’s just me. Ever since my review of Skepticism there has been a little running joke about my contempt for funeral doom (whatever that might be), so it was with a certain delight that I was informed that Monolithe was very funeral, and very doom. An hour long, single track of something I hate. Whoo motherfucking hoo!
Well, joke’s on me (wait, it was already, wasn’t it? This superiority complex is getting difficult to keep track of), because Monolithe I is not fucking bad. In fact, for what it is or appears to be to my untrained ear is pretty alright. I can’t go so far as to say I like it, but I can say that this is something that I might have to sneak back to in the future to see if maybe I am devolving. It’s s l o w. It sounds as though it was about an eight minute track when written, and it has been slowed compositionally to stretch it to the hour mark. I’ve got no problem with slow. I was a fan of Saint Vitus and still am of Godflesh and the Melvins, but this is like a sloth on ‘ludes. A big, evil sloth with razor sharp teeth and glowing red eyes. It’s slow like dry decay. But it moves, and you can become somewhat fascinated with the passage of each measure. It never quite reaches an emotional payoff for your patience, but it doesn’t miss it by that much.
The guitars are very up front in the mix, which gives the whole project a step up right from the get go. They are the constant weight that binds the song to itself. A thinner guitar would not have enough strength to accomplish this and the song would be a mess. Occasional lead passages intertwine with the keyboards to give your attention a reward, the keys are ever present, but never overdone. Tasteful, for the most part.
The drums are a bit…soft. Too much echo, too far back in the mix, more of a distraction than a real vital element to the composition. They sound as though they might be programmed, which would explain it to a degree. They are keeping the time, though. Bass = ?. This would have been a perfect song for a real Seance or Godflesh bass texture, but there may be no bass at all from what I can tell.
The vocalist is generally silent, but when he is there he sounds exactly like what you might expect: a stone sarcophagus being dragged from a crypt somewhere. Toneless, grating, hollow and ominous. Perfect for the atmosphere the song is generating. At a point or two there are spoken word parts, as well. The whole effect is actually a bit soothing, in a blood draining away, losing consciousness kind of way. The detracting elements don’t beat out the attracting ones, but the fact that this song takes an hour to listen to without some kind of emotional climax is wearisome. And sometimes the leads get out of touch with the song, sounding off key and annoying. But I was surprised just while the song kept me in it. The timing of thematic changes are perhaps a little too slow and abrupt to make the song flow as well as I would have liked, but they’re there and they would suck me back in when I started to wander.
Bottom Line: If this be funeral doom, then the form is not without merit to me. I must explore. But this particular album is not going to win me over. I have to believe that if you are a doom fiend, a lover of thing morose and prolonged, a delighter in that which delays and decays, this is probably a record you will enjoy. If you are not a fan of this stuff, steer clear. I just can’t imagine this will hold anything of value for you. For myself, I may need to get a crowbar and start prying the lids of a few tombs. There maybe something in them I need to consider. I think I will listen to this again.