1) of or relating to a monolith
2) characterized by massiveness
3) consisting of one piece; solid or unbroken
4) large, powerful and slow to change
5) [proper noun] a two-piece doom/black/crust band from Falmouth, Cornwall, United Kingdom
Since lavishing praise upon Monolithian’s debut album The Finest Day I Ever Lived, Was When Tomorrow Never Came last year – a deliciously Lovecraftian and Tolkienian affair that I’ve been spinning ever since – Weird Metal Blog has been gleefully anticipating the release of its follow up. Well, in the meantime, punchy new EP The Waning Moon will do very nicely indeed.
Originally released on February 1 2017, first new track ‘Crone’ is a kind of feminist anthem about the victims of Matthew Hopkins, the infamous ‘Witchfinder General’, responsible for the deaths of around 300 women during the English Civil War. On International Women’s Day, the band released the track as an album preview via Facebook, dedicated to “the women who were scapegoated and murdered in the name of religion and fear”.
(Yes, Witchfinder General is well-trodden ground in the world of Doom, and, yes, the witch as oppressed female figure is rife with the #witchesofinstagram. That’s not a bad thing.)
Opening with fuzzed-up bass rumbling some lovely mid-tempo doom, ‘Crone’ is a slow-burning start. Alongside Simon’s cave-troll-growl on the verses, ‘Crone’ features full-time drummer Shannon on part-time vocals – returning for the first time since Monolithian’s Covers EP from 2013, where she gloriously screeched her way through Disrupt’s ‘A Life is a Life’ – providing throaty screams over sustained bass chords for the chorus – a perfect contrast. Perhaps the most memorable moment – guaranteed to make the track a live favourite – is the bridge and climax, where the track drops to a brief, dramatic excerpt from Vincent Price’s magnificent turn as the Witchfinder – “You will each be charged in the prescribed fashion… and cast into the moat!” – under a tense tremolo pattern. “If, on the other hand, you are seen to swim or float,” Prince intones, “then your confessions of witchcraft are proven beyond a doubt in the sight of God.” Cue pummeling doompunk climax with both members trading vocals, and huge monotonous chords to close.
Next up is a five-minute contemplative track ‘Nyarlathotep’, which – alongside ‘Azathoth’ from Zero (2012), ‘Yog Sothoth’ from One (2012), and ‘Shub Niggurath’ from The Finest Day I Ever Lived Was When Tomorrow Never Came (2015) – completes what Monolithian describe as their Lovecraft quadrilogy, dedicated to the Weird Fiction maestro’s famous Outer Gods.
‘Nyarlathotep’ is built upon a spacey bass groove, where echoed string scrapes flutter away from a double-stop pattern, vaguely reminiscent of Jason Newsted’s intro to ‘My Friend of Misery’ in a more major-sounding key. If this section is one of the many human avatars by which Lovecraft’s titular Outer God is known, then the metamorphosis into the chorus that follows – a thick, mid-tempo doomwall – is more like Nyarlathotep’s true, hideous form.
Bass in your Face
The Waning Moon, like all the other Monolithian releases, is a bass-fetishist’s wet dream. Using the bass as the lead instrument rarely works simply to reproduce the same sounds as a guitar – the inevitable tonal differences make a huge difference whether the listener really picks up on them or not. This is especially apparent on tracks such as groovy head-nodders ‘The Mountain Bows To Noone’ or ‘Ixodes’, where Simon cranks out bass riffs as gnarled and worn as an Ent’s backside.
It’s on the final track ‘Mantis Rider’ where Monolithian get really Weird, with a trippy, echo-effect-induced intro that drops magnificently into a catchy stoner groove, clearly designed for a live setting to get the assembled masses moving to the upbeat dirge that follows. Returning briefly to the bass echo, we’re wrong-footed as what sounds like another heavy riff floats off into the air like smoke—before it coalesces back into the groove.
Bowing to No-one
Listening back to their early recordings, you can hear how far the production has come with The Waning Moon. ‘Baptism’ from Zero, for example, sounds muffled and lo-fi, perfect for such slabs of tremolo-doom black metal, whereas their second album really packs a heavy punch to rival larger, guitar-based bands. If The Finest Day… has a slightly cold, metallic sheen to it, then The Waning Moon is full-bodied and warm, demonstrating that you don’t need a big band to get a big sound.
I first saw Monolithian absolutely smashing it at the ill-fated Temples Festival (RIP), and a few months again at the Unicorn, London, playing mostly tracks from their debut. The duo’s live sound is every bit as monstrous as their records, with Simon plugging as many stacks as are available, achieving a carefully balanced heaviness to make up for any treble/mid tones potentially lost through just a bass. I for one can’t wait to see how these new tracks go down in the live environment, especially ‘Crone’ with the traded vocals, which works so well on record. One of the best things about The Finest Day… is the catchiness of some of the songs – if shouting “The black goat/of the woods/with a thou-sand yooooung!” can be classed as catchy – whereas on early listens The Waning Moon is perhaps less obviously so. This catchiness, though, has certainly been shaped by seeing the songs live, and I’ve no doubt that we’ll all be shouting “Crooooone!” just as loudly in the not-too-distant future.
Monolithian – a combination of two pieces: solid and unbroken.