Wednesday 19 August 2015

Behold! The Monolith - 'Architects of the Void' (Album Review)

By: Phil Weller

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 29/09/2015
Label: Self Released

‘A collage of different styles and different ways of thinking how to manipulate heavy music in the best possible way, it spins off all over the place while you watch, centre stage, as the most brilliant mess of sounds and visions whirl around you like a metallic tornado.’

‘Architects of the Void’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Umbral Vale
2. Philosopher's Blade
3. The Mithriditist
4. Lord of Bones
5. Black Days of...
6. Between Oder and the Vistula
7. Architects of the Void

Behold! The Monolith is

Jordan Nalley | Vocals
Matt Price | Guitar
Jason "Cas" Casanova | Bass
Chase Manhattan | Rhythm and Lead Drums 

The Review:

As authentic and battle hardened as Los Angeles' Behold! The Monolith's sludge ravished grumblings are, they never solely reside in the linearity many of the more bog-standard bands of their kin do. ‘Philosoher's Blade’ for instance - one of the finest songs you'll hear all year, by any band - unearths its brilliance in the oxymoronic blend of trademark, thick-is-pig-muck musical aneurisms alongside a more adrenalised thrash metal gusto – it’s a track which makes a robust statement that the rest of the album endeavours to further fortify. They never let their songs settle in a way where you can plot the path ahead; persistent changes in pace and mood scattered throughout like tacks, spiking your footsteps and keeping the journey interesting.

I kind of get the feeling that this album will be misunderstood however. It’s a lingering fear. Like a fantastical horror novel buried deep in the bowels of the crime section at WH Smith, this album is a wolf in sheep's clothing, it's not as the cover and blurb may suggest and so could easily be misjudged. Yes, the overall countenance of these songs are lathered in that trademark, thick, greasy sludge - the guitar tones and drums are especially so - but this is as much a thrash stained progressive record than anything else. To further the analogy, ‘Architects of the Void’ will still quench your thirst for a gripping 'who dunnit?' tome, but it provides much more than just that. 

Continuing in the same vein as 2012’s ‘Defender, Redeemist,’ although the Judas Priest resemblances have lessened a little, it stretches you as a listener. Where ‘Defender…’ set the scene with a grand, twin guitar attack, ‘Umbral Vale’ offers a much more sluggish and hellish fanfare introduction; this is all low end and gruff. But stirring behind the dense foliage of the foreground are moving, emotive chord progressions which colour the bigger picture evocatively.  It has a quicksand effect on you with its slow but inevitable pull, you’re sucked deeper and deeper into the song as it progresses. Which, by the time the aforementioned ‘Philosopher’s Blade’ makes itself known unto you – initially with a slow, booming and ultimately deceitful opening passage – the first aural assault unravels with a High On Fire flavoured shifting of gears. Any sense of security garnished at this point turns out to be false: Discordant guitars wail in distress throughout, the song peaking with an almost black metal pummelling and intensity several times.

Elsewhere, ‘Between Order and the Vistula’ is an absolute monster. It thrashes with a startling pace at points, gargles venomously and grooves a la Pantera and Stoneghost at others. Haunting inverted chords taint the already horrific atmosphere, touches of clean guitars with more evocative chordal moments juxtapose themselves betwixt the band’s deathly clarion call blast and it comes together with a true conviction in the winding, old-school-rock-goes-prog style solo and outro. The whole song spreads out in a collage of different styles and different ways of thinking how to manipulate heavy music in the best possible way, it spins off all over the place while you watch, centre stage, as the most brilliant mess of sounds and visions whirl around you like a metallic tornado.  The title track has the final say however, and is perhaps the most archetypal sludge song on show here. It does what you’d expect in that sense, monotonous wrung out power chords blare out at you without any real sense of urgency – in the best, most hypnotic kind of way. But halfway through they cannot resist the urge to push the song into another foray, and here it reaches a cinematic crescendo that typifies this bands mantra.

As a sludge band in itself, Behold The Monolith are admittedly quite dull – in both the positive and negative connotations. At times the laborious slog of it all can either leave you rapt or quite simply bored. But that side of them is merely one brick to a greater coliseum that they’ve built for you, the listener. In the middle you’re the guest of honour – or perhaps the victim – of an all-out attack of pureblood violence and aggression. But damn, it’s fucking good fun.  Over time, there’s every chance this record will receive less and less spins, but it will still be there in my music collection. It will, every now and then be dusted down and listened to; loved and cherished. It’s a great record in the now, but one which may very well suffer, from a personal perspective at least, from a lack of longevity.

In short, it won’t remain on my iPod forever, but I’m confident that it will make cameo appearances now and then, reminding me that this band has created something worth keeping hold of.
‘Architects of the Void’ is available in all formats here