Progressive doom dreamers Monolithe continue dissecting humankind on ‘III’

You know, I often mention the album experience on this site, meaning a record that is meant to be absorbed front to back with no singles being pulled out and you not taking a break. It’s not just me who mentions that concept, obviously, so that sounded kind of dumb, but if you read regularly, you know this is kind of a theme of mine.

The album concept also is turning into a mini-theme for the week with yesterday’s look at the new Aluk Todolo and today’s examination of “III,” the mega epic new album by French doom unit Monolithe (out on Debemur Morti now in Europe; in January in the U.S.). Come to think of it, I guess France also has become something of a focal point so far this week. In all honesty, that’s totally by accident. Anyhow, Monolithe’s new document, just like “I” and “II” that preceded it, is comprised of one album-length song. It clocks in at 52 minutes exactly, and obviously you cannot pick and choose moments for a playlist from this album because it is a whole. It’s forced all-encompassing listening, so if you don’t have time or patience, you won’t get much from this record.

If you do take time to visit, which I recommend, you’re in for quite a journey through all sorts of metal forces. Yes, it is doom metal by trade, and that’s there in heaping doses, but there is fantasy and power metal, thrash, prog, and post-metal pathways that keep this thing going over its very challenging run. Thematically, the band has been on a mission to explore the origins and development of mankind, starting with their 2003 debut, continuing into their 2005 sophomore release, and now extending into “III,” that now follows seven years later. In between were a couple of EPs as well, and all of this music has given their audience a lot of things to consider about what’s around them and what the future holds.

The band is comprised of Sylvain Begot, who handles guitars, bass, keyboards, and other devices; Benoit Blin, who takes care of guitars and bass; vocalist Richard Loudin; and Sebastien Letour, who adds other keyboards and orchestration to the mix and is new to the band. While they already were well thought of in doom and underground circles, that apparently wasn’t good enough for them, and you can tell they poured a lot of time and detail into progressing musically and taking things to places they haven’t before. For the most part, they succeed with that effort.

The song begins with layered synth, doom riffs, and power-style lead lines that make things more dynamically exciting than on their previous pieces. They veer into bluesy Black Sabbath territory, and Loudin’s growls begin to rise, giving way to the more savage parts of the piece. There’s a dreamy gaze that sets in, and the whole things gets murky and cloudy, going into the middle section of the song, where things start to bog down a bit. It’s a little bit of a downer for those few moments, but eventually things kick into high gear again, and a groove-filled riff similar to Lamb of God’s earlier work breaks out.

A blues swagger returns to pull things into the song’s second half, then more dramatic lead lines are unleashed, mystical doom synth is piped in, and things begin to feel a little like Candlemass, which certainly is never a bad thing. The song progresses yet again toward a section that boasts of castle metal, and at about the 36-minute mark, they launch headlong into a pushy prog section that also gets dressed in keys and ambiance. The final 10 minutes of the song has the thorns coming out, eerie lurching making the scene uglier and muddier, growls growing more aggravated and scary, and the whole thing fading out in noise and woods-like chants. The final few minutes drag to the finish, as it could have been capped a few minutes earlier without harming the message, but it’s a small complaint.

Monolithe put a lot of thought and effort into this 52-minute piece, and it’s worth your investment, be that time, money, or both. They certainly don’t adhere to convention, as not many bands dare to put out one-song records anymore, but they keep things moving well enough and color the edges with interesting shades, so you never find yourself losing interest. Set aside an hour and give “III” a go, and you’ll find one of doom’s more adventurous releases of the year.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the album, go here:

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