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Monolithe : Monolithe III

With their third full-length, the French band Monolithe has reached a new level in excellence.

Monolithe is the very personal project of Sylvain Bégot, who was also active in the now defunct Anthemon. Monolithe has been thought out as a downtempo, experimental venture going across Death Doom, Funeral Doom, Industrial and Ambient while never fully embracing any of those genres. The band released its first opus in 2003: 'Monolithe I' set the basis of an epic sequence of which each album is a chapter. Complex and uncompromising, its vast multi-panelled architecture can't be summarized in one simple sentence: the master idea deals with transcendental and metaphysical themes that the music strives to express through chaotic, dark, dense and surreal soundscapes.

Such an ambitious project needs both time - 'Monolithe III' comes to us almost 10 years after the first album - and room to develop: like its peers, this new section of their grand scheme is one vast, massive "album-fleuve", a 52 minute long piece, full of intricate rhythms and haunting atmospheres.

A good starting point to describe an album of this kind would be to compare it to the previous one - although the band has also composed two EPs between 'Monolithe II' and 'III', the fact they don't belong to the same global music concept allows their bracketing. 'Monolithe II' was built upon symphonic textures. It possessed a dense flow fed by a cyclic mid-tempo rhythm section that hardly varied the pace. Hard to swallow; I can remember it lost me more than once. The premise of 'Monolithe III' is different: far more diverse, it offers a large array of moods and, while it's still huge and bone-crushing, it's also made of a more supple matter, going swiftly from one element of the composition to the other. It has swapped the prominent solemn, almost stubborn, accents that prevailed on the previous stage for a real and far more daring attempt at a progressive songwriting that boldly rushes through the vibrant tapestry of sounds, bringing unexpected combinations between joyful whistled melodies and deep apocalyptic hollows, soft piano lines and brutal growls.

Monolithe were once described as a Funeral Doom band. Although their music always lacked the mournful factor, it had a majestic, cosmic and hypnotic nature that somehow could justify that label. This third album is cut from another stone: the band dropped the last shades of Funeral Doom for good and in doing so, they removed the limitations its laws put on innovation and gained a new form of freedom: 'Monolithe III is truly more satisfying to my ears, as you witness that awkward building in formation, slowly developing in strange directions; a long, complex track that obviously must have taken them ages to complete! I can't tell if they sweated blood over it or not, but the quality of the end-result really shows! The monolith that was album II now resembles more of a puzzle, each piece of which has been patiently crafted and polished to fit in the whole; I suspect, for that matter, that rubbing out the joints has been a great part of the work.

With this third full-length, Monolithe are exploring their limits. Limits in time, limits in songwriting: how to compose a vast movement that would be as protean as possible while staying focused? Good question. The many-fold turns and twists are tied together by repeated rhythm motifs, be they a swirling riff, a dissonant series of chords, the cohesive duet of rhythm guitar + drum buzzing and hammering together and above all, the voice, a deep growl that trails through the whole album. All those features help to keep the sprawling, schizophrenic chaos unified.

'Monolithe III' is an album that needs time and attention, but once you get into it, you find it has a lot to offer. This is so more compelling than anything they've done before; it explores so many more emotions and feelings that you have to acknowledge the band has reached a new level in excellence. Such an inspirational work is worthy of your time and money, believe me.

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Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Monolithe III

Duration : Approx. 52 minutes

Visit the Monolithe bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-10-26 by Bertrand Marchal
No God Only Pain
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