Friday, March 15, 2013

REVIEW: BEHOLD! THE MONOLITH - DEFENDER, REDEEMIST




Behold! The Monolith’s self-titled debut boasts one of my favorite album covers: A strangely cuddly axe-wielding warrior creature, equal thirds silverback Gorilla/Sasquatch/Wookie, triumphantly rides an armored red-eyed war-stag, roaring his intent to shampoo his fur with the blood of his enemies. I have no idea what that creature is, but it means business and it’s totally bad ass. Behold! The Monolith’s music is similarly difficult to identify, but why even bother when it leaves such a fun, playful, and dynamic impression? 

Defender, Redeemist may not have a cuddly barbarian on the cover, but it does feature a knight-steered space griffin and possesses a sense of adventure that evades most doom-centric bands. Sure, there are long passages that grunt forward like a zombified snail, but there are also flashes of thrash, dusty southern rock licks, and splashes of blackened sound that texture the album start to finish. “Halv King” pummels with a Motorhead-by-way-of-prehistoric hardcore sneer and album highlight “We Are the Worm” finds the mysterious middle-ground between High on Fire and ZZ Top and dances in that neutral territory with half of an opponent’s bleached skull fastened as a jock strap. After some way-groovy, spaced-out ambience “Redeemist” launches into a doom jam that just starts to overstay its welcome when the trio stomps into new territory with bluesy swagger, their beards most definitely swinging to the tasty metal licks before some haunting clean finger-picking and fuzzed out vocals lead you down yet another twisted, hidden path. It’s an ambitious, tenacious song that captures Behold! The Monolith’s essence in one burly, schizophrenic track.

The album ends without the same success, with three straight tracks that seem to linger without momentum. “Cast On The Black​/​Lamentor​/​Guided By The Southern Cross” follows the same basic structure as “Redeemist” but adds three minutes of running time that feel unwarranted. Despite a fantastic, melancholy riff and accompanying solo to end the track the song soon fades into silence and I’m left searching unsuccessfully for what happened in the first ten minutes. “Bull Colossi” also lurches forward without much passion, capping off a truly promising album with three straight songs I’m unwilling to dedicate nearly half an hour to again. Kevin McDade’s vocals suggest his throat has been shredded from a lifetime of eating porcupine quills and wolverine teeth. They are tough, raw, and the exact ballsy tone to complement their sound, from sludgy romps to trigger-happy bursts of speed. I am usually a bass freak who would sneak to a sound board and crank it past deafening, but the bass here  absolutely dwarfs the guitar until the six-string chimes in with a clean tone.

Despite my less-than-lukewarm take on Defender, Redeemist’s second half I still think it’s worth a listen, especially for fans of slow-born doom that feel like the world needs more song titles like “The Battle for Balls Deep.” At its heart this is feisty, loud rock music that chews on a good riff  longer than its last bite of chaw, just with a serious volume addiction and a vocalist that could make an entire field of caribou suffer heart arrest from a single roar. This Los Angeles band is worth your attention, let me make that clear. You may listen to the last three songs and admire the solid foundation of doom and feel there’s enough experimentation to keep your interest, I just felt a drop in energy, which to me is a cardinal sin when the track has a killer name like “Witch Hunt Supreme.” Nothing energizes me like the slaughter of innocent women over religiously-motivated false pretenses, and that’s probably why I started this blog to begin with.

The band has impressively sold out all CDs but stream their music here:  http://beholdthemonolith.bandcamp.com/

And check out their website:  http://www.beholdthemonolith.com

1 comment:

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