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Behold! The Monolith. - 70%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 17th, 2009

Prepare to light that fat joint and puff away as another new face enters the stoner fray. Behold! The Monolith were, at the time of this self-titled debut at least, a three piece band that worked mostly within a hybrid of genres that focused on a juxtaposed laid back heaviness brought almost entirely about by gigantic guitar riffs and old school styled vocals. Generally speaking, it takes an awful lot for me to feel any sort of affection towards stoner bands. There’s something about the style, which could be compared to my feelings of the sludge genre, that makes it harder to warm to the genre’s strange and surreal interpretations of whatever it is that their lyrical scopes proceed to dedicate their sound to. As with sludge, I find it difficult to enjoy stoner bands vocally. There’s something about that throat based scream that is an instant turn-off like discovering a patch of hair on the body of a woman where there should be no hair. The screams remind me of those old ladies who have been smoking almost their entire lives and have developed really husky voices due to it. It’s unfortunate and mildly disturbing.

Not all sludge, or stoner bands have vocalists who utilise this style and, although they appear to be few and far between, there are decent vocalists who can use this style to their advantage as the adventurous music depicts more than just the clichéd aspects of genres like the aforementioned. Behold! The Monolith are one such band who use a husky male vocalist, but make moves within the instrumentation that are advantageous and adventurous. So much so, the positives outweigh the meaty negatives which still, unfortunately, includes the marred vocal portrayal. One could argue that the structure of songs by bands such as this one, which includes heavy riffing, calls for vocals such as these, but I don’t think that’s true. In this day and age, where music has developed far away from the traditions in most forms of metal music, vocalists should be willing to compensate as the old school styled vocals don’t appeal to me, the modern listener. Of course, I accept and understand that a vast number of people do enjoy throat based screams alongside heavily distorted guitars and pounding percussion, but I like my stoner music to offer more variation or, at least, dynamism to the style.

Although I’m not a huge fan of them, OM are a good example of a band which pours creative juices into their music by touching up on olden day methods with new and unexpected techniques such as harmonious clean vocals and bass driven atmospheres. Although I understand that these two bands have incredibly different styles, OM are just an example of how stoner bands could be more adventurous when approaching the style. Bands such as this one seem to approach with such caution, as if the style would shock them with a life threatening dose of electricity if they were to deviate from the guitar driven style and tiring vocal depiction. Kevin McDane is a strong vocalist. His voices carries well, but his style is monotonous to the point of sleep inducing. I imagine most stoner bands, with their doomier edges, wish to create an entrancing atmospherical aspect to their game, but Kevin’s vocals tinge the more creative instrumental side with a boring, unadventurous outlook. It seems like a vastly overused comparison, but most stoner bands are compared to the so-called “greats” of the genre, and this definitely includes the hypnotic British band, Electric Wizard.

At times, though Behold! The Monolith sparsely use ambiance to reap some rewards, they also admit defeat and emulate their idols by distinctly sounding like Electric Wizard in the guitar department. Although I like Electric Wizard, on some records more than others it must be said, I think they could have made more of an effort, like on songs such as ‘Phantasmata/Waking Life’ which reminds me of OM’s bass driven soundscapes amidst a soothing atmosphere controlled by the wonderfully relaxed drums that omit a slight tribal sound, to tear down the conventions of the stoner genre like someone working in the demolition business would do to abandoned and disused buildings. The walls of the predictable stoner genre, which basically includes lots of heavy, intoxicating riffs and penetrative percussion, need to redecorated from time-to-time in order to stop them from becoming outdated and unappealing to the public. The future of the band is currently uncertain, given that the drummer has since left, so this could be a chance for the band to alter their style a little and incorporate more ambient passages into their cautious soundscapes that try too hard to fuse a sense of melody and entrancing moods that later become ineffective due to the lacklustre vocal style. Thankfully, there are a number of occasions where the vocals are simply omitted from introducing their lifeless reputation on the soundscapes, as with the up-beat and energetic introduction to ‘Guardians of the Abyss/Primal Extenuation/Rise of the Brohemoth’. Often lacks bite.