French maulers Monolithe push doom reaches with devastating, blistering opus ‘Nebula Septem’

Most band make records, collecting a bunch of songs they’re been writing and putting them together on a record. No shit, right? You come here for amazing information like this. No, but look, that’s what most bands do. It works, and we come to expect it. But not all bands are this way, and some look at creating the album as challenging themselves to do something different. Every time out, it’s a new quest.

French doom band Monolithe have yet to approach a single album the conventional way. Every time they’ve created a new opus, they’ve rewired themselves and pushed their abilities into new areas. Their first four records were 50-minute-plus, single-track excursions that refused to break down their music into more manageable bits. Their last couple albums, they committed themselves to three 15-minute tracks to get out their sizable worldview. They’ve returned with their seventh record “Nebula Septem,” an album that takes their insane ambition and pushes it through the roof. Each of these seven songs (well, eight, since the last track is a minute-long outro) are named from A-G, and the songs are played in those keys. Also, since it’s their seventh effort, each song is seven minutes long. Talk about writing yourself into a box, but the band makes it work for the most part, though there are times when songs feel like they end because they must. That’s a small matter on a record on which the band— Sylvain Bégot (guitar), Olivier Defives (bass), Rémi Brochard (guitar/vocals), Benoît Blin (guitar), Sylvain Marchand (keyboards), and Thibault Faucher (drums)—pretty much delivers and keeps Monolithe’s creative juices flowing.

“Anechoic Aberration” begins the record in chugging, frosty doom, as elegant lead guitars guide the way, and gruff growls blast you in the stomach. Things then go on a proggy bend, as the pace switches and ushers in a darker section. Organs bleed while the tempo drubs, and the songs comes to a sudden end. “Burst in the Event Horizon” also simmers in prog waters, as cavernous growls burst, and the pace turns decidedly violent. The growls fry along with the sound spilling all over, complete with keys thickening, and the song bleeding out. “Coil Shaped Volutions” unfurls dark drapery, reminding of Opeth’s death metal days (hey, remember those?), and a slow-driving assault and warm melodies blend into smothering doom. Keys boil up again, while the growls feel scraped from the guts, and emotional guitar work picks up the pace and carries it to its end. “Delta Scuti” begins in heavy trudging, kicking up mud and blood before melodies rush into the scene. Synth stabs arrive in the middle of the song, bringing in an industrial edge, and heaviness returns in full, with the track ending in aching growls and relentless storming.

“Engineering the Rip” has a strange sci-fi influence, as warped synth runs set the mood and bring about a doom crunch. The gurgling growls mix into the melodic tempo before things go cold and get emotional, and the atmosphere thickens and darkens the land below it. “Fathom the Deep” has bizarre keys that gnaw away at you before the power kicks in and begins bruising. The song balances mud and infectious playing before the guitars begin to soar into the stratosphere. A psyche smog meets the song on the other end, as the track slips away. “Gravity Flood” is a stimulating instrumental as keys blip away and cold electronic pulses enter the fray. Alien weirdness approaches as the guitars take flight, while calming, humid playing bows out with the clouds. A final, minute-long track “(Concluding Act)” brings the record to a close with strange rap-like vocals and odd transmissions, bringing the album to a weird, and if we’re being honest here, somewhat off-putting conclusion.

Monolithe’s music has remained intense and challenging over the band’s run, and “Nebula Septem” continues their run of albums that refuse to adhere to the rulebook. While this album has its flaws, it’s mostly a pretty exciting document from a band that always keeps the doom genre exciting. We’ll take some tiny scars as long as we have bands such as this that keep challenging what it means to make—and hear—an album.

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