Wednesday 16 July 2014

Black Monolith - Passenger (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 29/4/2014
Label: All Black Recording Company

“Passenger” DD/LP track listing:

1). Intro/Void 07:10
2). Dead Hand 04:25
3). Adhere 08:18
4). Victims & Hangmen 03:13
5). Gold Watch 09:20
6). Eris 07:26

The Band:

Gary Bettencourt | Everything


If there's anything we aren't short of in heavy metal these days, it’s d-beat and black metal. In a way, Black Monolith is a dual citizen of both of these styles, since it’s rarely in both places at once. There are plenty of bands that throw Celtic Frost, Discharge, Darkthrone, Mayhem and so on into a transmitter pod and come out like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly; an ugly, mutated conglomeration of the original components. Black Monolith is different, in that rather than melting these pieces together to form a hybrid sound; each individual component is largely kept separate from the other. That isn't always the case, but that's how things play out more often than not.

After a brief intro, the meat of ‘Passenger’ begins with “Void”, which would understandably earn Black Monolith some comparisons to a band like Deafheaven; though perhaps it’s more ‘Roads to Judah’ than ‘Sunbather’.  It has those “post-black” and “USBM” hallmarks: wide-open riffs with big, tremolo-picked chords and plenty of atmosphere. While this overall idea and presentation is pretty common for current black metal, it’s definitely at the highest level as far as execution and conviction are concerned. Once we get to a break from the alternately blasting and double kick-heavy early minutes; we again hear Deafheaven’s influence in the form of heavily reverbed lead guitar gliding over the top of a post-black riff, though a very basic 4/4 rock beat carries the tempo nicely outside of the normal formula.

Now, let’s compare that with the next song, “Dead Hand”. Anyone who has heard the Celtic Frost worship at 4:08 of “In the Shadow of the Horns” from Darkthrone will find the opening riff of “Dead Hand” to be very familiar. In fact, it’s a little too similar for my blood, but it’s a stark contrast from the preceding song. The big chords and melancholy emotion are replaced with head banging Celtic Frost riffs. Again, it’s very familiar, but it’s played with a ton of conviction, so it isn't a huge issue for me. Some of that post-black atmosphere shows up again in the second half, but generally it’s always a sharp turn from one style to the other.

“Adhere” and “Victims & Hangmen” follow the same ‘atmospheric black metal to raging d-beat’ pattern as the first two songs, but things do take yet another turn with “Gold Watch”. Featuring a dissonant riff made of plucked, individual notes; it's the sort of thing you might be more likely to hear on an Akerocke album. It provides another dimension to Black Monolith's sound; one that I think should be employed more frequently down the road. “Eris”, the final song of the album begins as a beautifully droning wall of guitar and noise that seems to be a dreary but on-point conclusion, until it takes on a more hopeful and positive tone as the drums join in. It ends up sounding like the reflective closing moments of a very special episode of Dawson’s Creek; which seems like a bit of a strange note to end on. ‘Passenger’ does have its flaws, but the positive greatly outweighs what I would consider to be a couple of questionable choices otherwise.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

You can get the vinyl here and DD from the usual places

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