From Beneath Billows' 2007 EP left a tremendous impression
with its tame violence and dark, greater-than-life compositions. It was one of
the best atmospheric hardcore outputs of that year, for sure.
Six years later, this Norwegian quintet has finally offered
its fans its debut full length album, namely Monolith; a 75 minutes quality
atmospheric / post hardcore piece where long contemplative soundscapes converge
with heavier, angrier parts.
Although the musicianship is top-notch and the body of music
is in many parts captivating and beautiful, the album as a whole is somewhat of
a pedestrian experience as it does not go to lengths, being neither completely
spellbinding in its mellower parts nor the exercise in full-blown violence it
should have been. Too laid-back for its own good, the instrumental parts
could be at times too long and a tad exhausting, while the brutal stuff is way
tamer and civilized as well as short-lived.
There is, however, a thoughtful suspense inherent in/to the
music, a sense of drama and storytelling (like in good film-making) and each
long track is rather varied in emotive expression and dynamics: from total,
meditative transcendence to plowing, metallic scythes of delicate
The aesthetics, both sonic and visual, are excellent and the
mysterious and austere artwork suits the album's general theme perfectly. Monolith
showcases a mature band of proficient musicians taking their art to the maximum
of their talent and expressing it with the highest level of finesse and
enthusiasm. However, they seem to focus mainly on songwriting and on the
delivery of the smaller details, neglecting all the while the originality
factor - what ultimately results in an album the likes of which we have heard
before; musical substance that is often too familiar.
You will not hear any surprises coming from this album, nor
should you expect any; this is definitely not another Neurosis copycat - both
in positive and negative senses - as it sends another message altogether: the
aspiration to bond with the forces of nature rather than with one's inner
demons; and in addition, the music is heavily influenced by American folk
(Southern Rock, Americana) - a fact cannot be attributed to Neurosis' music.
Final thoughts: If you happen to like bands such as Omega
Massif or Across Tundras, you will probably dig this exquisite album; It's not
as vitriolic as any of Neurosis' stuff (or Cult Of Luna's, for that matter),
nor it is as unique as the stuff coming from the French atmospheric hardcore
gods Dirge. Ultimately, it will definitely caress and sooth you to a greater
extent than it will bite, but its beautiful moments and its musicianship are
Support this band - its music definitely deserves it. (6.5/10)