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6.5/10 Chaim

FROM BENEATH BILLOWS - Monolith - CD - - 2013

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 nihilism. 

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 simply sublime.

Support this band - its music definitely deserves it. (6.5/10)


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