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Until Death Overtakes Me : Prelude To Monolith

Firebox Records are officially one of, if not the greatest record label in the world. In my opinion, anyway. Between 2002 and 2003 alone they have signed and released some of the best and most innovative doom-metal bands and records in years, and I can whole-heartedly name Until Death Overtakes Me and 'Prelude to Monolith' as one of those.

Some may recognize the man behind this band, Stijn Van Cauter, from his countless other music projects, most of which being at least quite doomy, if not totally suicidal. However, UDOM. (as this project is often referred to) is widely regarded as his greatest and most popular. Although Iím not completely sure if I agree with this, I certainly regard this 'band' as one of the finest things that can be roughly categorized as doom to emerge in recent years, and one of my proudest discoveries and most delightful listens in a long time.

Despite the immeasurable originality, unconventionality and innovativeness of this project, it can be quite easily coined as 'ambient doom', although this barely scratches the surface of the matter. Some more informative descriptions I would use would be hauntingly beautiful and tranquil, and yet nightmarish, sorrowful, tortured, oppressive and demoralising. The pace is never fast (even slow could be too lenient a description), and the mood is never uplifting, or even remotely hopeful. However, by the time this 67 minute, 5-track long monolith comes to a close, you do feel strangely...better, and full of wisdom about yourself.

The music is largely very minimalistic, like almost all of van Cauterís work. Featuring only tormented, massively distorted and down tuned guitars, indescribably sombre and moody keyboard and synth work (that add some melody to the music), solemn, yet empathic timpani, and most notably of all, anguished, dark vocals. Some have remarked upon their distaste for these vocals, claiming that they ruin the atmosphere and are simply not needed. However, I very much disagree. These extremely deep, ominous growls (as well as occasional sinister, desperate whispers) only add to the atmosphere and emotion on display, and are not at all dominant above the other instruments as they are in more conventional music (if this were the case, then perhaps they may have damaged the atmosphere, but they are not). Rather, theyíre almost like an additional instrument that helps the music to flow, and become even more pained and desolate. Another noteworthy matter is the fifth and last track, a remake of Frederic Chopin's fantastic 'Marche FunŤbre'. This is a considerably interesting, emotive and quality remake of an already wonderful piece of music...it adds the definitive, affective UDOM. 'feel' to the piece as well as making it even more sorrowful. It is a wonderful choice for a 'cover', and closing track, that warrants the attention of any open-minded ambient/doom/dark music fan fond of the original, like the rest of the album. Despite it being so harsh, bleak and uncompromising, as well as totally unconventional, I think that it could appeal to any such listeners, and I would heartily encourage anyone in any doubt as to whether or not this masterpiece will appeal to them to ignore these restraints and listen to it regardless...The tortured, woeful emotion present, massive and deeply touching, and the dark, brooding, ominous and desolate atmosphere unforgettable. This work really is incomparable and irreplaceable, and anyone who never has the fortune to hear it has suffered a tragic loss.

'Prelude...' also features some very interesting, fitting and good quality sleeve artwork courtesy of Stijn, providing a futuristic and atmospheric backdrop to the hopeless and miserable, but still affective and fascinating lyrics, making this record a near-perfect record of suffering. To find out more and purchase 'PtM.', as well as all of Stijnís other projects, head over to listen.to/udom. And by god, if this is only the prelude to monolith, Iím not sure if I can bear the monolith itself...

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Prelude to Monolith
2. Missing
3. Absence of Life
4. Slip Away
5. Marche FunŤbre

Duration : Approx. 67 minutes

Visit the Until Death Overtakes Me bandpage.

Reviewed on ??-??-???? by Stephen Burrell
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