What’s this – a new Monolithe already? Didn’t I write a review just 6 months ago? It is indeed so. Zeta Reticuli is advertised as the second part to 2015’s Epsilon Aurigae, and it’s a similarly expansive ode to the cosmos, conveyed through densely atmospheric doom metal replete with a plethora of spacey synths. While turning their sound ever further from funeral doom, this review would be largely similar to that of its predecessor but for a couple of differences I will note. It’s ethereal and chilling without disregarding the crushing heaviness one seeks in doom and remains a strong choice for doom aficionados.
The echoes of Epsilon Aurigae are clearly audible. Taking their long-winded, doomy roots, thick synths flesh out their soundscape and as before the 45 minute album is divided into 3 equal length tracks. The developments in Monolithe‘s sound, characterized by more fluid constructions and greater variety on Epsilon, are also present. Ambiance and cleaner guitar tones are sporadically used on “TMA-1” and surprisingly melodic keys ensure there is an alluring quality to proceedings. Much of Zeta follows these steps, equally trampling and mesmerizing. Around half way through my first listen I was questioning the function of this album in their discography as it seemed mere repetition of very recent work.
This question is satisfactorily answered by the second half. From 9:45 onward in the middle track, “TMA-1,” more new sounds are introduced. A dark ambient passage begins, featuring distorted natural samples which deviate from the space-oriented feel they otherwise strive for. It evokes some alien rain-forest and it ever-so-slowly transitions into the marching final passage. The gradual re-layering and dense textures used make for a formidable conclusion, especially given the relatively quick drumming. More even, the third and final track, “The Barren Depths,” breaks out clean vocals which represents a significant departure. They aren’t the strongest I’ve heard but there’s real depth and reasonable range demonstrated. Something like a hook is even offered around 4:00 and repeated at 9:50.
I don’t want to overstate these changes as much is similar to Epsilon but a greater willingness to deviate from the funereal just about keeps Zeta free from stagnation. The cleaner solos are more frequent and even faster and the drumming more deft as the the new skins-man is given more freedom to go beyond plodding percussion often used in doom. This feeling of freshness is aided by the far-improved production as established by Epsilon, with good dynamics and a great mix which facilitates a strong representation of the heavy and light(er) qualities here.
Zeta falls into that old cliché of ‘if you liked ’em before, you’ll like ’em now!’ It does enough to merit its own review and commentary, particularly regarding the clean vocals, but doesn’t stray far from Epsilon. I probably prefer it given its variety and the strong conclusions to “Ecumenopolis” and “TMA-1” but if Monolithe didn’t grab you before this won’t change that.