Tuesday, July 14, 2015

…come my saviour: BEHOLD! THE MONOLITH – ‘Defender, Redeemist’

Behold! The Monolith’s sophomore full-length, ‘Defender, Redeemist,’ was an egregious omission from my radar in 2012 and I wasn’t turned on to its brilliance until later the following year. I had been a casual fan of the band’s self-titled debut—especially blown away by the sprawling ambience of the album’s second track, “Battle for Ball’s Deep,”—but somehow the follow-up escaped me. I had been anticipating the band’s trek through Denver playing alongside Sadgiqacea and In the Company of Serpents—a killer bill around. Unfortunately, tragedy struck due to the untimely passing of Behold! The Monolith’s bassist and vocalist Kevin McDade and the band’s fate seemed to be sealed. Whether or not I picked up a copy of ‘Defender, Redeemist’ before or after these fateful events is inconsequential, what truly matters is that ‘Defender, Redeemist’ has become one of my favorite albums of all time and has never been far from my stereo. It is a modern metal masterpiece that is rife with fantastical world-building, expansive song structures, and tastefully implemented atmospherics.

Behold! The Monolith defy easy categorization and are probably best served by simply being referred to as “Metal.” Still, few band so effortlessly and successfully combine elements of doom, sludge, progressive rock, and thrash all executed with a weighty nod to traditional heavy metal. The short instrumental “Guardian’s Procession” opens the album and lives up to its namesake with an unsurpassable grandeur. Despite its brevity, “Guardian’s Procession” is stately, epic, and even elegant. There is a false lull with this graceful introduction as ‘Defender, Redeemist,’ is, for the most part, relentlessly heavy. The blistering, thrash-heavy onslaught of “Halv King” is perfectly juxtaposed with “Guardian’s Procession” for maximum potency. McDade’s bass kicks off the tune with Motorhead-like intensity and guitarist Matt Price and drummer Chase Manhattan follow suit. McDade’s vocals are raspy and savage—often spat with a vitriolic intensity. While the majority of his vocals are often harsh and acerbic, McDade had a great voice as evidenced on “Desolizator.” McDade switches up his vocals from a hellish bellow to clean vocals on his third run-through of the closing lines, “Sent forth from his body / He closed his eyes to believe / I cast a shadow on his dormant body / And took his life for reprieve / Fell on desolization / The judgement sent from unknown,” a subtle yet effective technique that highlights the band’s ability to craft infinitesimal, yet impactful, hooks.

At just short of the five minute mark the parasitic ode “We Are the Worm” may be one of the shortest tracks of the album, but it is definitely one of the richest in terms of song craft. And Hell, I may be crazy, but there are echoes of Thin Lizzy scattered throughout as sections of Price’s layered guitar are interspersed with spacey, frantic bursts of psychedelia. Though the entire album is an example of perfect sequencing “We Are the Worm” followed by “Witch Hunt Supreme” hits the listener almost as hard as “Guardian’s Procession” followed by “Halv King”. “Witch Hunt Supreme” is easily the moodiest track of the album. Ominous waves of atmospheric guitar blight the song like an encroaching storm as McDade spins dark tales of witches and woe.

All of the compositions of ‘Defender, Redeemist’ are grandiose and epic in essence, if not in scope. The fourteen minute opus “Cast on the Black / Lamentor / Guided by the Southern Cross” manages to be both. It is an ambitious track that highlights the band’s progressive tendencies and their traditional metal sensibilities. The opening riff is noble and stately and also seems to resonate with the album opener “Guardian’s Procession.” While there are moments scattered throughout the album that could be directly descended from doom metal they are in greatest supply on “Cast on the Black / Lamentor / Guided by the Southern Cross.” The first “movement” of the track is played out at a staggering doom crawl that eventually succumbs to an acoustic guitar passage yielding one of the albums few serene moments. The song continues to evolve and meander through realms of acoustic laden prog-rock and riff-heavy metal.

‘Defender, Redeemist’ bears no chink in its armor nor impurity in its faith. Based on the growth from 2009’s self-titled debut the band’s rising trajectory can only be speculated upon. It took a while, but Matt Price declared that he would carry on with Behold! The Monolith with blessings from McDade’s family and friends. Following a three year wait Behold! The Monolith is about to unleash the promisingly titled ‘Architects of the Void,’ their first as a four-piece with bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova and vocalist Jordan Nalley. While the four-piece incarnation has a lot to live up to live clips have been promising and seem to indicate that Price is still determined to craft sprawling heavy metal epics complete with atmospheric textures, blistering solos, and unforgettable heavy riffs. Though Behold! The Monolith are entering a new era the fact remains that ‘Defender, Redeemist’ is a juggernaut of an album from the grandiose opening of “Guardian’s Procession” to the fading feedback of album closer “Bull Colossi.” The album is a modern day classic that sets the bar high for the succeeding four-piece lineup. Anticipation is high for the late September release of ‘Architects of the Void.’




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