Monolithe close the book on their doom saga with psychedelic funeral opus ‘IV’

Monolithe bandThere are bands that make collections of songs, both interconnected and not, and that probably makes up the bulk of most musical endeavors. Then there are those rare few that see their art as something greater and try to do something larger and more grandiose.

French doom outfit Monolithe are one of those that stand out from the rest of the metal world and even from many of their subgenre contemporaries.Their records are immense journeys, like something Tolkien might dream up if he made devastating metal albums instead of extensive tomes. You don’t sit down and listen to a track or two and then see what’s remaining on the rest of the album. Monolithe’s records ARE songs, and over the course of four full-lengths, the band has come up with singular presentations that sprawl to nearly an hour in length a piece, and they force you to decide if you are in or if you’re out when it comes to their creations, because there is no other situation that’s acceptable. Absorb or go away.

Monolithe coverAfter last year’s destructive and captivating “Monolithe III,” their first for Debemur Morti, we get a new 57-minute serving called “IV” that is another hefty display of drama, damage, and morbidity that should keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. It’s also the final installment of their four-part series, and one of the best ones to date. Yeah, taking on an hour-long song that comprises one record is a crap shoot. It isn’t easy to keep things interesting for that long, and plenty of other bands have tried and failed with this method. But these guys–vocalist Richard Loudin, guitarist/bassist/keyboardist Sylvain Begot, bassist/guitarist Benoit Blin, keyboard player/programmer Sebastien Latour–are more than capable of keeping your blood boiling, and this incredible finale brings their project to a tumultuous end.

The track begins with a burst, with thrashy crunch, guitars that simmer, and a proggy feel, making it seem like you’re aboard a strange spacecraft, seeing the galaxy in a way you never have before. Loudin’s growls begin roiling about three minutes in, and they make their presence felt often on this album. Melodies set up, swirl, mash into new pieces that rise up, and continue to change the color and texture. You get caught up and float away with the thing, emerging and falling with their playing, and about 15 minutes into the track, everything goes clean, and a calm sets in. But it’s temporary, as blistering growls rip through the gut of the thing, and choral swatches from Emma Elvaston pump air and beauty into the madness. She also has a pretty big role and always delivers. About seven minutes later, there are more trickling, clean portions and some airy gushing, and while heaviness returns, this section is more reflective, with pianos cutting in and an infusion at atmosphere changing the tone.

As the track hits the 30-minute mark, the fury returns, as guitars start to gallop and head into a power metal assault. The drums begin to kick up and cause a frenzy of violence, and synthesizers sweep in and add a huge cinematic sense. Then the bottom drops out, and the doom takes permanent hold of the track, providing some of the ugliest, burliest music in Monolithe’s history. The band slips into funeral doom mode, with the riffs getting slower, sludgier, and more morose, while the pained growls follow suit, giving off the sense that all of the air is filled with dread. The 41-minute mark has the band still spilling the lumber in bulk, but there are also are some gothy underpinnings to the track that give it a teary-eyed, rainy effect. The funeral dirge returns, as does the maniacal heaviness, and amid all of that is some Pink Floyd-style psychedelic dreaming, but thats snuffed out by the final minutes of the song, where everything is set on fire, left to burn, and completely overcome by the thick, unforgiving smoke.

Monolithe’s four-part project has grown extensively both in emotion and musical prowess since it started with the first album that dropped in 2003, and it’s been a decade of incredible movement, reimagined and reworked doom, and music served up in a non-traditional but always satisfying way. Hopefully Monolithe continue to create great works beyond this and have new dreams to spread across epic offerings, or maybe they’ll find more conventional ways to enthrall us. Either way, this has been an explosive, breath-taking project to behold, and “IV” offers a titanic finale in a way that would be worthy of a giant, legendary big-screen blockbuster of old when you’d leave a theater stunned, amazed, and totally fulfilled. All hail Monolithe for a story well told.

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