We’re always reminded to embrace life, not to take things or people for granted, and that in a split second everything could be gone. Existence is fragile, and it’s not until we’re faced with losing something, or finding ourselves facing fate, that these things come into focus. A lot of metal music celebrates these things and makes them into something that’s quasi-celebrated. It’s fun theater. But reality feels a lot worse.
A band that could tell you a hell of a lot about that is Behold! The Monolith, a band that was making a nice dent in the suddenly burgeoning sludge doom scene with their crushing 2012 release “Defender, Redeemist.” It was brutal, muddy, and a damn good time, a fantastical platter with bloody roots that was a mauler with every listen. But then the worst possible scenario reared ugly head: vocalist Kevin McDade was killed in a car accident, and suddenly everything was up in the air. Not only did the band find its momentum halted and a vital member of the band gone, but they lost a comrade with whom they built their path and developed their following. Had that been the end of the band, no one would have batted an eye. It would have been a shame to lose such a promising band, but fate is a fucker sometimes.
Luckily, Behold! The Monolith were not about to bow to such fate. Yes, they were bruised, hurting, surely lost inside, but they refused to call it the end. Because of that, we are very lucky to have the band’s brand new record “Architects of the Void” to discuss. There was a good chance this third record never would have seen the light of day, but on a steed rushing through the night into battle, here it is sounding gigantic, vicious, and so true to the band’s spirit. First listen to this record, it was just wonderful to hear the band intact. Subsequent listens allowed the essence of the music to sink in and what these guys—guitarist Matt Price, drummer Chase Manhattan, new bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova, and the man taking over for McDade on vocals Jordan Nalley—accomplished on this seven-track, nearly 50-minute behemoth. The fires still burn, they maintain their burly edge, and they have created a record that only should solidify their standing.
“Umbral Veil” gets things going with slow-hammering doom, lurching growls, and a haze that is both misty and monstrous. There are some strong dual lead guitar bits cutting through the murk, while a sense of mournful glory emerges and bleeds into “Philosopher’s Blade.” Here, the drums awake early and pound, while the pace opens up and starts drubbing. The screams from Nalley are fiery and forceful, while nasty blasts make their way in and the band starts churning. The growls peel the flesh from your arms, while a strong solo tears through, and the track comes to a bashing end. “The Mithriditist” is muddy and stomping at the start, with some cleaner singing that reminds of earlier Mastodon, and the song going to strange, mystical areas. Yet a guttural twist comes out of that, with heavy fire raining down, guitars meting rock, and smothering noise slamming the door shut. “Lord of Bones” is an ominous one, with slow carnage bruising and the track getting fully into the darkness. The pace is thrashy, while riffs take command, and the gritty growls and volcanic leads give the back end of the track a destructive, bloody feel.
“Black Days Of…” sweeps in, a quick instrumental cut that’s full of strange noises, bleak vibes, and a cosmic atmosphere that clouds your mind. “Between Order and the Vistula” follows that, igniting from the start, with a stomping assault, bluesy guitars catching on, and the track coming to terrifying life. The whole thing splits open, with the tempo kicking up, screamy singing lacerating you, and a psychedelic edge emerging that gives this piece a pretty cool texture. The last half of the song is vicious and catchy, swaggering and sludgy, and a blast of crippling fury. The epic 14:10 closing title cut is wonderfully riffy, with the tempo taking its damn time, and the punishment being dealt in a calculated manner. There are smudgy bits, with fierce vocals dominating, cosmic blips adding frostiness, and a hopelessly pulverizing push that feels like one well-placed body blow after another. A drone void emerges, almost like a huge, mysterious space cloud, yet guitars cut out of that, with the playing waylaying and coming to a deafening crescendo, and noise sizzling and corroding over the record’s final, glorious minutes.
Just saying “Architects of the Void” is a triumph merely because it exists would short-change the great music Behold! The Monolith conjured here. Out of unspeakable tragedy that could put an end to most bands, these guys got up, collected themselves, and started making their barbaric drive all over again. It’s inspiring hearing these guys carry on and keep setting uncontrollable fires only they can tame, and this new beginning for the band not only should remind us of the fragility of life but also of perseverance and strength. All hail Behold! The Monolith.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.beholdthemonolith.com/
To buy the album, go here: https://beholdthemonolith.bandcamp.com/album/architects-of-the-void