Monolithe - Monolithe II - Appease Me / Candlelight Records 2005
Running Time: 50:27
Monolithe II is the inaugural release from the recent partnership of UK-based Candlelight and France's Appease Me Records, home to (and run by members of Blut Aus Nord). Taking the Godflesh-cum-Immortal-cum-Dead Can Dance leanings of Blut Aus Nord into consideration, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. When I heard that the album contained only one track nearly an hour long, I couldn't wait to get this piece of digitized plastic into my hot little hands. I had no idea what Monolithe sounded like, but I knew I'd be in for a trip.
Monolithe II begins at a plodding pace, bringing to mind the "greats" of funeral doom, Thergothon and Skepticism. Soon enough, though, as more and more layers are added to the sound, Monolithe breathes an air all its own. Of course there are elements of other bands here. In fact, name a European doom band since Sabbath (whose existence in the genre is arguable), and you'll find touches of them in the music Monolithe creates. Whether it be the more medieval-themed Beseech's early work, or formative albums by Paradise Lost, you'll find it within this album to varying degrees. There's decidedly little influence from the more rough-and-tumble American side of the Pond, but I will say that I've never heard a French band capture the spirit of traditional early 90s doom like Monolithe - and on their debut, no less. Amid the Katatonic grooves, shades of progression (think Gentle Giant or Gryphon) wind through like grey shadows at dusk, never coming to light, although you know they're there...waiting to be discovered. Monolithe II is a dense, yet somehow airy piece, both marvelling at the world's beauty and cowering in sadness at the death of the same. The vocals are treated as a true instrument here, but never overpower the music, which is admittedly the focus of a band such as this. Shifting layers of sub-level sound are sliced through with soaring leadwork from time to time, making sure that Monolithe doesn't run out of creative steam, which is a concern when you're dealing with a single-song fifty-plus minute album. There's no chance of that here, though, Monolithe showing both a maturity and depth that belie their short existence as a recording entity. Fingerpicked acoustics near the end are joined by fluidly-played drums, then washes of rain-soaked, droning chords drag the listener back into the world of shifting tectonic plates that is Monolithe for the album's finale.
Monolithe have, with their second album, reopened old and much-missed windows to the past for those of us who were there, and opened a pathway to new sonic vistas for those who weren't. This album will still be growing on me years from now.