Review by Saxy S for Monolithe - Monolithe II (2005)
I don't want to come on here and hate on funeral doom. It makes a lot of sense given the crushing atmosphere that is implied by the subject matter that it sounds like a dirge and gives you the crushing feeling of being lowered six feet underground. But holy shit is it boring! And this is not just a criticism of Monolithe, but many of this genre's most influential figures, like Bell Witch and Esoteric.
This album took me three attempts to finally get through it in a single sitting. And trust me when I say this: it was almost a fourth attempt because I was so drowsy and uninvolved in the music that was on display, but I forced myself to continue listening through to its deathly conclusion. I am not opposed to single track albums; Light of Day, Day of Darkness is one of my favourite records of all time. But Green Carnation had something that Monolithe desperately lack, and that is a sense of growth, or in the case of funeral doom, decay. It took this album nearly half and hour before it decided to modulate out of its main theme. Leading up to this, Monolithe waste time by having moments that seem like a divergence from the original theme, but only serve as temporary bridges from theme A to... theme A again. There is so much obvious room for refinement and cutting of the fat that this could have worked, but instead, Monolithe are convinced that long, unchanging atmosphere can win me over, when it actually makes me want to go to bed!
I feel horrible for the drummer in this band who does the bare minimum when it comes to tempo support, and is only able to add some occasional double bass and drum fills whenever its time to feed the cat... and the cat died five years ago. The guitar work is okay I guess; most of the record has a rhythm guitar who just chugs away with the lowest power chords, while the lead guitar sounds more like a continuous solo instead of a melodic lead to compliment the synth and vocals. And while I did enjoy the synths on this album, the vocals are so far back in the overall mix that you would be hard pressed to hear them if you weren't using headphones. And the low end of this album is severely lacking; the rhythm guitar is so prominent in the mix with its power chords that the bass has nowhere to breathe. It makes an album that is supposed to be dense and concaving feel remarkably timid.
For the death doom sound specifically, I am reminded of records like The Call of the Wretched Sea by Ahab and Songs From the North by Swallow the Sun. These albums are long, brooding and atmospheric as well, but these records both had the songwriting presence to lead you down the dark and terrifying path and bring you somewhere that is colder and more isolated than where you started. The Monolithe albums hear the starting gun go off, trip before the first hurdle, and then don't even attempt to get back up and try to finish the race; they stay in place. I'm generally not one to criticize an album that typically receives glowing praise, regardless of genre, but I just cannot tolerate this. If you ever wanted to know why my ventures into funeral doom metal are tepid, I present exhibit A.