Thursday 23 November 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Monte Luna - "Monte Luna"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full-length
Date Released: 02/09/2017
Label: Indepedent

With a little bit of trimming, their debut would be a contender for breakout of the year.  As it stands, this should portend greatness for a duo as eclectic and skilled as any I’ve heard in 2017.

“Monte Luna” CD//DD//CS track listing

1). The Burning of Elohim
2). Nameless City
3). 6000 Year March
4). Nightmare Frontier
5). Inverted Mountain
6). The End of Beginning

The Review
This year has been an absolute banger when it’s come to excellent records.  With so much brutal filth to laud,  Owlcrusher, Belus, Shroud Eater, and Fister all put out shatteringly exceptional releases. 

With a self-released, self-titled debut LP, Monte Luna throw their hat in the power duo ring and perform admirably, a psychedelic, spacey blast of eclectic stoner metal, Monte Luna goes all in with six tracks that range from blast beat fury to soulful blues riffage.

It’s tempting to think “The Burning of Elohim”, the shortest track (at nearly five minutes), is an introduction for the massive cuts that follow.  But it’s too full on its own to be a mere intro cut.  Clarke’s abrupt shifts between shriek and croon are almost disarming, but ultimately a real asset.  His dexterity in guitar styles serves as an guiding principle for Monte Luna, as Phil Hook can instantly lock into a bluesy, soulful swing or pummel through punishing blast beats.  On “Nameless City”, a thirteen minute doom jam centered around beefy riffing and Clarke’s grungey, bluesy vocal, Hook stands out with precise but loose meat and potatoes rock drumming that serves the doom fretwork, especially when guest guitarist Jon-Paul Girard goes for an extended wah-wah jaunt through pentatonic scales loaded with some vintage Blue Cheer fuzz.
The feedback-heavy martial tone of “6000 Year March” sounds like the music an orc would blast before heading into battle, complete with shrieking tri-tone riffs and a husky, yowling vocal delivery from Clarke.  The ambient outro, layered with samples of occult movie dialogue, feels a bit overlong, especially since the next track, “Nightmare Frontier”, is an abrupt departure.  Pushing his voice into soulful heights, Clarke almost sounds like Cedric Bixler-Zavala, albeit in a less falsetto register. The subdued bass and drum line, countered by a sinewy, sludgy riff, makes “Nightmare Frontier” an irresistible banger.  When the track culminates in an ascending guitar lead, there’s no doubt that this is the standout cut on the record.
If “Nightmare Frontier” is the catchiest cut, “Inverted Mountain” may be the absolute filthiest track.  Clarke pushes his vocals to shredded extremes, and the relentless feedback is molar rattling.  A downbeat midsection, seething with sonic manipulations courtesy of Hook, witnesses Clarke careening from forlorn wailing to sinister crooning, before launching into speed metal mania.  The end of this brutal sprint also highlights the one glaring issue of the record: the extended ambient codas.  When the following track, “The End of Beginning”, has its own mellow intro, the appended few minutes feel like a real drag.  Which is a shame considering the finale is a brutal assault on its own, vaulting from slow dirge to blast beat assault.  Clarke once again pushes his vocals to extremes, and his guitar ranges from ethereal to demonic.  That this stellar track has another outro – this time acoustic – only diminishes the transcendent, destructive finale.
When measured against the heft and might of the majority of this otherwise excellent debut, Monte Luna’s sonic noodlings are a bit nitpicky.  But the truth is that this stellar combo only obscures its own songwriting and performance chops.  The finale to “The End is Beginning” feels like the chaos and violence of Ragnarok itself… until they tack on a few extra bars and nature sounds.  With a little bit of trimming, their debut would be a contender for breakout of the year.  As it stands, this should portend greatness for a duo as eclectic and skilled as any I’ve heard in 2017.

“Monte Luna” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook