Sweden’s crowned kings of ultimate riffage return for their fifth full length album with Your Time to Shine. For those who don’t know, their past releases have offered some of the most heavy, monochromatic, and distorted stoner doom known to man. I will always have a spot in my heart and a vacancy on my turntable for their early sound and the genre as a whole. I eagerly fumble with my headphones in anticipation to hear what these riff mongers have crafted for this latest release.
Listening to Your Time to Shine soon makes me realize that Monolord has grown up a bit; lurching out of the smokey past comes perhaps a smarter – certainly more well rounded Monolord. They have left their circular, ultra recycled, fuzzed riffs in the background and have emerged as a powerhouse group of songwriters. On their earlier albums they wrote strong riffs, then bashed on them over and over until a song croaked out of their withered husks. Monolord now employs swishing grooves to take the reins, with clever hooks riding shotgun, leaving overtly heavy riffs to ride in the back. Now with this latest album a more mature, dynamic and polished band emerges.
I fear I fell prey to a common pitfall when firing up this album. I was half expecting (even if subconsciously) a sound similar to Empress Rising or Rust and going in with a bias of knowing their earlier work. I essentially was holding this most recent album against the mirror of prior works to then judge their reflection. Much to my initial dismay the first song “The Weary” offered no such familiarity. It opens by stomping the sacred burial grounds of doom with a repetitive one-two hammering kick/cymbal/bass guitar channeling and awakening the spirits of doom. This intro seems heavy enough to give Yob’s “Prepare the Ground” a run for its money. Then, the racket pauses and a thick distorted guitar cries a call to arms and the rest of the instruments fall into rank and file. Hark! Do I hear a cowbell? I believe I do, a fun addition to the Monolord tool box. This song, despite its heavy beginning follows a more ubiquitous trail that is not a hoof print of an evolution of their sound but gives clues that this album is perhaps a new beast all together. It praises a sound that although more versatile and accessible is less extreme and endearing to me. I was still missing the old Monolord by the end of the tune.
“To Each Their Own” truly defines what Monolord is trying to accomplish with this album and where their song writing has gone. It draws in the knowing listener with a catchy hook then slows down into acoustic stand alone guitar to showcase the song. Many conflicts and juxtapositions are at play here in the writing. The tug of war between loud and soft, fast and slow, clean and distorted, and meek vs. aggressive are all on display here engaging the listener in close and grappling their ears from escape. This song didn’t really reveal its true self to me until about half way through. The hard rock/acoustic game of tag is dramatically stopped and shifted into seemingly minor chord harmonized guitars. Doom, traditional and epic, is in full effect, harnessing the sounds of Pallbearer’s and Trouble’s emotional longing. It hits you right in “the feels”. A buzzing hive of bass guitar drones underneath and carries the heavy load of the song. They were able to impressively and seamlessly join together three styles rock-folky acoustic-doom. This song reveals their updated approach to be a delicate beauty hidden beneath a darkened veil.
Monolord’s early work had a sound so distinct and riffs so massive that their music was one of the few man made objects that could be viewed from space, along with the Great Wall of China. Although the distinct sound of their early albums riff, riff, riff, thick and heavy, was a bold and brash artistic choice that made a sound instantly recognizable it was perhaps unsustainable. That fire burned hot and dirty. Monolord is too creative for such a rudimentary, binary, stripped down sound. Your Time to Shine cleverly shows the versatility of the band, what they are capable of and where their trajectory lies. This is by far the most emotional album in their catalog, as their previous work were more one dimensional giving them a lack of intimacy. Monolord used many more colors in their musical palette this time around. That being said, I personally like the old, heavier stuff better. This album is still heavy, just not bone-crushing and extreme. It is certainly more accessible then previous outings.
Out now via Relapse Records
- 1. The Weary
- 2. To Each Their Own
- 3. I’ll Be Damned
- 4. Your Time to Shine
- 5. The Siren of Yersinia