There are people among us who can remain cool and calm in the face of absolute chaos, and I 100 percent am not one of those people. At least not in real life when situations brutally out of my control come for me, and I’m left to deal. I’m much handling discomfort in my art because I can remain in control of the situation and find something within that journey to embrace.
I got to thinking about that when taking on “Monument,” the second long player from Dutch sludge/doom power Onhou who have quite the test with which to treat you. On these four lengthy songs, the band—guitarist/vocalist Alex, bassist Henk, keyboardist/vocalist Florian, drummer Arnold—immerses you in discomfort and disturbing notes about our shared existence. But inside that torment, based heavily on the sometimes-dreamy sounds and celestial shadows, I could not help but let my mind wander beyond the torment to something else. It’s a great record to hear if you’re spending your evening pleasantly high, letting the music soak into your cells and enable you to travel far away.
“When on High” splits open with the drums leading and sludgy power rising, forceful calls soaring off into a synth glaze. Vile howls then knife in as the storm cloud combusts, and the bloody menace leans into a thickening fog. Synth spills as the tempo delivers piledrivers, muddy hell thickens the juice in your arteries, and noise scars, the final moments draining away. “Null” simmers in mud as the numbing cries remind of Conan’s barbarian doom. The synth coats faces as the playing spreads, and heavy hammers begin to drop. An increasing cold front brings heavy shivering as roars burst out of that, and savage howls make your flesh crawl and your bones ache. The pace crushes as the melodies get ghostly, mammoth destruction rears its head, and the playing drives over an icy, alien terrain.
“Below” is the longest track, running 11:55 and beginning with spacey keys that give off a sense of isolation in darkness, adding to the eerie strangeness before bursting open. Mangling growls reign as the power continues to multiply, washing into a brief calm until the claws sink in again. Leads light up as the vocals flex their muscles, howls lurch, and the synth glows like the moon over the horizon. The drubbing continues and lasts as the playing exits this earth and moves into the stars. Closer “Ruins” runs 11:03 and brings guitars ringing out and synth bleeding before the devastating cries pierce the night. The playing scrapes as the intensity becomes a greater factor, moving into galactic wonder that moves into your dreams. Shrieks punish, the playing destroys, and everything bathes in a flood of feedback.
For a record that intends to poke at the gruesome and destructive elements of our existence, “Monument” also happens to be a record that lets your mind wander among the stars and makes your thinking get richer. Onhou certainly have plenty of barbaric moments mixed in with this mind fuck of a record, and its combination of imaginative playing and scathing violence is a perfect match for anyone who wants to be devastated and challenged. This is immersive and slashing, an album that’s perfect for late-night contemplation washed in moonlight.
To buy the album, go here: https://www.facebook.com/onhouband
To buy the album, go here: https://onhou.bandcamp.com/album/monument
For more on the label, go here: https://tartarusrecords.com/