Doom (the genre not the game or the [amazing] punk band) is having something of a resurgence in 2019. Perhaps “resurgence” is the wrong word. Doom, of the clean vocal variety, has existed since before the very beginning of metal. But in the last few years it’s taken a back-seat to an overflowing cauldron of cassette tapes laden with the second coming of early 1990s death metal. It’s hard to say precisely why. Perhaps for the generation currently firing up blogs on WordPress and Squarespace it feels immediate–something that they are taking part in. Perhaps the doom, particularly the pure kind with clean vocals, feels stale. Maybe, to those youths, it feels like their father’s metal. But now, in 2019, long after doom sowed the seeds that would blossom into so many branches of metal (with more than a little help from punk of course), the genre is slowly percolating itself back to the forefront. Like an eternally active volcano it seems that 2019 is likely to see a volcanic eruption of clean vocal doom, perhaps led by the return to form by the masters-of-the-genre Candlemass, that will last the test of time.
The discussion begins with the third track, “Liber Loagaeth.” Doomy on the intro, hopping like a rabbit headed for the honey hole, the intro tears forth beckoning the listener into Monastrium’s den–complete with raw obsidian stone walls and dissonant guitar chords. Vocals soar over pragmatic chord progressions, vibrato shaking the very foundation of purpose. But, when the chorus drops, the band is no longer having a discussion, they are the debate team detailing the nation’s economy with precise ease and simple disdain. What works here is everything. Monasteriurm easily rolls over the composition with all the ease of woodchuck knifing through 42 lbs of maggot-infested support beams. Ending almost too briefly, the track slips and slides out with a simple guitar line–harkening all the intensity that Monasterium require of their congregants.
Across Church of Bones the vocals reign supreme as the primary focus of the listener. But supporting those wall-clamoring vocals are solid compositions relying on consistent building blocks. Each track is designed simply, perhaps a guitar solo or some increasingly angered lyrics penetrating the wall of boredom. Guitars roll in harmony, slowly penetrating the chasm of the listener’s soul (or similar).
But it is forever the powerful vocal performance that carries Church of Bones. If the album lacks anything it’s a lead guitar that can keep up with the volcanic vocal performance. While the band is absolutely capable of backing anything that comes their way, the solos, which could very much enhance the experience, remain subdued and somewhat lost between theory and execution. While not a mood-killer, it’s something the band could expand upon with guest performances for future releases. That said, Church of Bones is a winning experience from the moment you press play or on or needle down or whatever until it quietly fades out only to be played again momentarily.
While Church of Bones isn’t perfect, in particular it has the one glaring drawback mentioned before, it’s a damn fine album to add to your doom collection. You’ll reach for it on warm summer nights when the breeze carries the sound of hooves in the distance. You’ll spin it during the coldest depths of winter as a fire crackles softly in your hearth. In the fall, as wet leaves line the ground surrounding your root cellar, the powerful vibrato of Michał Strzelecki will strongly reverberate throughout the damp forest. In spring, as life bursts forth with great color and zest, Monasterium will be there to usher them on, force them to admit what they are before the Many-Faced God. Like a weighted blanket, Church of Bones will cuddle you and comfort you should you be wise enough to let it into your most intimate of emotional nooks and crannies.