They say some areas that appear black are actually vivid with colours the human eye cannot comprehend, and thus views them as complete and utter darkness. Up until this point we’ve been unable to fathom what these mysterious colours and sights look like, the majority of space being a pitch black sea of anti-matter. However, if anything has come close to enlightening me on what exists in the darker realms we cannot comprehend, it’s Monolithe III – a mesmerizing, brilliantly written opus that has absolutely no stylistic equal, revealing the darkest corners of space and totally capturing them in one of the most captivating and brilliant set of sounds you’ll hear this year.
It’s difficult to begin to explain what makes Monolithe III the true masterpiece of its kind that it is. Perhaps it’s the way it takes every aspect of the cold, dark and spacey doom that Monolithe practised and improves upon it tenfold. Perhaps it’s because it takes every aspect of that sound and twists it into one of the most unique-yet-familiar soundscapes; the kind many bands try to achieve and fail. Maybe it’s the fact that although there’s only one track on this, a 52 minute (!) challenging journey, it never manages to bore or repeat itself more than is truly warranted. It would be impossible to list everything Monolithe does right on Monolithe III and I’d be dumbfounded to even begin to tell you just how much this band achieved with such a modest array of instrumentation and ideas. A simple drum machine, one guitar, bass, growls and some synths – that’s it. That’s the setup for one of the most expansive and brilliant albums this year.
Monolithe does have a brilliant way of making it all sound new though. For a funeral doom metal record, you’ll be hard pressed to find any of the crippling staples that this genre suffers from. In fact, it’s a complete disservice to consider this album a funeral doom record. Monolithe simply aren’t content with staying at a slow place, the album constantly changing and moving the aesthetic forward with some of the most beautifully melodic and interesting riffs they could think of, in utter abundance. Repetition simply isn’t an aspect here, there are a few reoccurring riffs, but with the way this album so immaculately flows through the motions, you don’t think for a moment you’re hearing a section you’ve already heard. It captures subtlety, intricacy and atmosphere in a way I’ve never seen done on the scale they capture here. Some bands can pull out a great track, but to pull this along for 52 minutes and not once falter, that’s quite a feat, a feat that Monolithe leap over effortlessly in one of the most graceful and terrifying ways I’ve ever seen a band achieve it.
The way this album flows through the motions is simply unrelenting in its quality and nature. The transitions between the riffs, all as good as each other, is simply sublime. Not only is it remarkable in its flow, but it also manages to be completely unpredictable, your sense of excitement just heightening with every new passage until the album closes, leaving you with no choice but to play it again. Monolithe manages to couple this with a believable and absorbing atmosphere, the feeling of being in a black, unrelenting, freezing cold wasteland far beyond Earth’s atmosphere – or even this universe. To team this intricate songwriting with such an atmosphere is just about unheard of, when one excels, the other usually falters, but not here. The brilliant lead guitar work does nothing but accentuates the atmosphere whilst still impressing, far from just coating everything in a shroud of reverb. The album truly is a journey in every sense of the word, discarding the trite uses for the word ‘journey’ and genuinely taking you onwards and through the motions that I promise that you’ll struggle to see coming.
Perhaps the drum machine might distract you, despite it being one of the best drum machine jobs I’ve ever heard – perhaps the lack of bass presence may be a hinderance to the enjoyment of the album. But the way this album excels in what it does makes this matter so much less, to the point where I can’t confidently list either as a fault. The vocals do their job, though they add no memorably brilliant moments, but this simply doesn’t matter due to how sparse they are anyway. They simply aren’t the focus.