Monolithe – Nebula Septem (2018) REVIEW

Alright seventh album, seven guys, seven songs, seven minutes each, written in the key of uh, seventh notes… Anyhow, it is a concept album that uses an interesting set of rules in it’s composition. Despite the mathematical precision suggested by the ritual it must have taken to create ‘Nebula Septem’ is distinctly organic and varietal when compared to their previous full-lengths. Though Monolithe were always highly melodic and modernized for a death/doom band that leaned towards funeral doom metal pacing, they’ve found greater impact within the guidelines provided by ‘Nebula Septem’ and it’s conceptual vision.

Monolithe’s beginnings were just as conceptual, though, with their first four albums consisting of one 50+ minute funeral doom track each. Their style was likewise guided by ethereal keyboards, progressive metal breaks, and a droning wall of enormous guitars and death metal growls. If you’re already a fan of those first four albums and their “science fiction Shape of Despair” ethos yet don’t have much interest in death/doom beyond funeral doom variations, then ‘Nebula Septem’ might not be the grandiose, long-winded meditation you’re looking for. I personally lost track of the band after the release of their ‘Monolithe Zero’ compilation in 2014 because after they’d made the same album four times in a row I wasn’t sure if they had much more to offer than slow-motion death/doom.

Now if you jumped on the Monolithe ship during the ‘Episilon Aurigae’ / ‘Zeta Reticuli’ duo of albums then you saw the change in style towards progressive death/doom metal in bursts as they picked up a great deal of speed and began to work at a pace where their ideas were given enough restrictions to fully form into distinct moments. The trouble with these two records, especially when played back to back was that many of the experiments with sludge, industrial and Doom:VS style death/doom didn’t pan out. The riffs really went nowhere and it didn’t amount to anything close to as interesting as ‘IV’.

‘Nebula Septem’ makes good on those experiments with extra layers of guitars that are in service of a central vocal presence. Though the atmospheric keyboards hover just above the mix as on ‘Zeta Reticuli’ they’re now accompanied by excellent melodic lead guitars and for the first time a dynamic drum performance that isn’t either largely programmed (as in I-IV) or soundtrack-esque in nature. My favorite track was initially the very Finnish death/doom sound of ‘Burst in the Event’ (in B, of course) that feathers itself out for the last two minutes of it’s length with an earworm of a subtle guitar hook. Those trailing moments of brilliant lead guitar offer small hooks to look forward to when listening on repeat.  Likewise the very Alien Soldier intro for “Engineering the Rip” had me coming back for one more listen, an odd feeling considering the finality of previous Monolithe records to date.

If you only have time for one 7 minute track on this album: Of the seven I would highly recommend the sludgified bending grooves of “Fathom the Deep”. The song hopefully offers a look into things to come for Monolithe as the track is the death/doom version of Inquisition‘s guitar wriggling rituals transformed. ‘Nebula Septem’ is Monolithe at their most nakedly musical and it was a great relief to find that they’re even more compelling at death/doom speed. It is an excellent modern vision for the band’s sound that only gains value with each successive listen.

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Artist Monolithe
Type Album
Released January 26, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp Follow Monolithe on Facebook
Genres

Sculpted here in stone. 4.0/5.0

 

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