Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mondo Drag - ’The Occultation Of Light’ (Album Review)

By: Joosep Nilk

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 26/02/2016
Label: Riding Easy Records



Compared to their self-titled from last year ’The Occultation Of Light’ is more intense and direct in its offering. Yet similarly to that previous effort, the album’s strength again lies rather in that which is left unsaid.  What can also be heard is a matured band more comfortable in delving into different frames of mind, knowing full well how to stay the course on an even keel, paying reverence to their array of influences yet earnestly exploring previously uncharted territories.


The Review:

Their first on Californian label Riding Easy Records, one would perhaps predict a more sun-soaked mind-exploration, but the onset of opening track  Dying Light’ establishes the tone for the remainder of the album. It clearly isn’t a light-hearted record. Beginning with an onslaught of mind-bending repetition, this dizzying ascension soon takes a turn toward the sinister and carries forth with some trepidation. The bass line keeps the theme of apprehension throughout and the foreboding guitars conversing with the eerie dialogue between synths and organ prove instantly infectious. The air thickened, the wispy vocal melodies adding conjectures that cut like a knife through the murky mood. It isn’t long until their proggy sensibilites come to the fore as it all comes together through a mind numbing and a commotion of steady meandering.

As an adherent to the very organic sound of their previous album, it is initially surprising how clean and polished the presentation here is. Luckily that is no indication of having steered from other influences of long past decades. ’In Your Head (Part I & II)’ is a perfect example of just how dysphoric of a sound they’ve created from these quite disparate elements. Starting off encircling, it builds upon an ecstatic and warm sense of anticipation. On a backdrop of the rhythm section’s rumbling, it then falls into an agitated surge of quirky swirling psychedelia. Yet keeping with the thread of unrest, the tension picks up again but is ultimately left unsolved, as if careful not to indulge into all of the sentiment at once, diligently weaving it throughout.

’Incendiary Procession’ immediately picks up on that prior outpouring. With a nod toward genre-definers Yes, the band play with turbulence, contstantly changing tempo. This ecstatic vigor remains all legerdemain though, as it is often exchanged suddenly in favor of bringing back that already familiar unease, only to shift back yet again. The dynamic between this exuberance and disquiet fully compelling and enveloping your mind in its sharp contrasts.

Obviously one can’t leave unmentioned the band’s recent prolificity. Having just released a self-titled  album, some themes from yesteryear are quite obviously revisited. Whereas the overall impression brings to mind the livelier tracks from that endeavor, on fourth track ’Initiation’ the melody heard during the intro is almost a straight reprise of the languid mellotronic- heavy tune ’Plumajilla’. In contrast, the soothing calm here instead dissolves into a bustling build-up giving hints of some towering premonition until it all fumbles apart. These familiar motifs that have been expanded upon can be noticed elsewhere, and brandished with sure prowess.

The band’s not-so-recent move from the Midwest is perhaps also a factor, heard either in that very noiry melancholy or the carefree strut of an organ-heavy tune like’Ride the Sky, there’s undoubtedly a quality reflecting in their sound from breathing in that West Coast air. The aforementioned track introduces a welcome shift in pace and tone as a rocking danceable number with a blistering guitar solo, where Mondo Drag prove that they aren’t unfamiliar to grooving it out every now and then. Another allusion to California dreaming comes on closing track ’The Eye’ in the form of spoken word amongst a Middle-Eastern vibe, recalling to mind the goofy mania of late 60s classics H.P. Lovecraft, yet of course carrying it out with more than a touch of their own. The band aptly demonstrate elsewhere how capable they are with references, as on ’Out of Sight’ they shed light on how Sabbathian groove isn’t amiss amidst a thoroughly proggy approach either, and even-more so – how well it can carry  a different sort of garnish – with the riffs converging into a sudden kraut-down at the track’s apex.

Returning once more to the mix, whereas the self-titled had John Camino crooning in the distance, on ’...Occultation...’ the vocal track is further up front. As per usual, instruments do the majority of the talking, with lyrics used sparsely but to still greater effect, the words complimenting the music and vice versa. This is nowhere truer than at the climax of the album, which comes in the form of second-to-last track ’Rising Omen’, a circular confluence fully embracing that looming darkness established at the outset. Enveloped in an implied yearning, it’s a hazy gyration, with the almost ghostly tone of the guitars reflecting the anguished words and organs further glorifying the madness, equally alluring as it is captivating in one finalistic concession.

Compared to their self-titled from last year ’The Occultation Of Light’ is more intense and direct in its offering. Yet similarly to that previous effort, the album’s strength again lies rather in that which is left unsaid. As promised by the title, it is by and large a dim lit affair. What one can hear is how the band themselves prefer listening to be – one cohesive, and equally trippy, experience. What you can also be heard is a matured band more comfortable in delving into different frames of mind, knowing full well how to stay the course on an even keel, paying reverance to their array of influences yet earnestly exploring previously uncharted territories.

’The Occultation Of Light’ is available here


Mondo Drag launch a brief U.S. tour on March 11 in Denver, joining Pentagram for a series of both U.S. and European tour dates before teaming for a European outing with Elder as well as performances at Roadburn and Desertfest.

March 11  Denver, CO  Hi-Dive
March 12  Columbia, MO  Café Berlin
March 14  Atlanta, GA  Masquerade (w/Pentagram)
March 15  Nashville, TN  Exit/In (w/Pentagram)
March 17  Dallas, TX  Gas Monkey (w/Pentagram)
March 18  Houston, TX  Warehouse Live (w/Pentagram)
March 19  Austin, TX  The Lost Well (w/Pentagram)
April 6  Lindau, Germany  Club Vaudeville (w/Pentagram)
April 7  Munich, Germany  Backstage Big Hall (w/Pentagram)
April 8  Wiesbaden, Germany  Schlachthof Wiesbaden Big Hall (w/Pentagram)
April 9  Durbuy, Belgium  Durbuy Rock Festival
April 11  Bezirk Landstrasse, Austria  Arena Big Hall (w/Pentagram)
April 12  Jena, Germany  F-Haus (w/Pentagram)
April 14  Hamburg, Germany  Klubsen (w/Pentagram)
April 15  Tilburg, Netherlands  013 (Roadburn Festival)
April 16  Karlsruhe, Germany  (w/Elder)
April 19  Aalborg, Denmark  1000 Fryd
April 20  Stavanger,Norway  Folkden (w/Elder)
April 21  Bergen, Norway  Hulen (w/Elder)
April 22  Oslo, Norway  Bla (w/Elder)
April 23  Gothenburg, Sweden  Truckstop Alaska (w/Elder)
April 25  Kobenhavn K, Denmark  Loppen (w/Elder)
April 26  Kiel, Germany  Schaubude
April 27  Muenster, Germany  Sputnikhalle (w/Elder)
April 28  Chemnitz, Germany  AJZ Talschock (w/Elder)
April 29  Berlin, Germany  Astra (Desertfest)

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