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Monolithic, indeed - 80%

Sean16, January 9th, 2006

It is almost an impossible task to judge this album by usual criteria. Monolithe I belongs to this little and fascinating world of extreme doom metal where one song has to last more than forty minutes to be taken seriously. Exactly, this album is made of only one fifty-two minutes long song, which can’t be separated into several different tracks at all, keeping the same unity from the beginning to the end. And this might be the first positive point of this “album”: these guys managed to record such a monster without EVER sounding incoherent.

Though all this is very, very slow, we are not dealing with sadness or depression here, Monolithe I being something entirely different. Massive and, yes, monolithic, would be the word. This is in no way minimalist, indeed, Monolithe music is rich, very rich. Crushing, oppressive, almost suffocative, it is built on a loud bass and down-tuned guitars wall of sound - not less than three guitars are sometimes used together – on which are added piano or keyboard parts - and, of course, the vocals. Those might be the most impressive part of the music - low, low caveman growls, reinforced by a slight echo, seeming to directly come from the core of the Earth: indeed, these guys are really dealing with origin of mankind, as they pretend to be! In addition of these are some muttered, whispered or spoken parts – it is a bit hard to tell exactly what they are - which, while good, are far from being as astonishing as the growled parts.

The drum machine was almost unnecessary. Instruments alone manage to create such an heavy atmosphere! However, to lighten it a bit, certainly to prevent the listener from dying of suffocation before the end of this monument, a few piano-only or soloing parts have been added from time to time, and the song even speeds up after 30’00, for an instrumental part far closer from a standard metal tune, a very nice improvement which prevents the track from becoming boring. But, right after 33’00, the pace suddenly slows down and, after a short piano interlude, the guitar wall falls again, more crushing as it had ever been until there. Plaintive leads enter the stage only to prepare the place for these deep breath-taking growls we were missing so much. The song goes on and on like that, alternating heavy parts with more melodic ones where the piano takes the foreground, until the conclusion where the pace slows down more and more – fastens once again for thirty seconds – then abruptly ends up with one minute of some unspeakable electronic noise - and eventually the listener falls back in the real world, suddenly wondering: what has exactly happened during these 52 minutes?

But now if you ask me the question – YES, IT COULD HAVE BEEN SHORTER. It could easily have been shortened of around ten minutes, a 40 minutes long song would have already been a more than epic track, while some parts of the actual song sound a bit empty. It never becomes really boring but the fact is, this sounds slightly repetitive from time to time, before the more inspired parts begin again. A pity, because the whole song is overall truly fascinating, and indeed the end is, as well as the sumptuous first ten minutes, the best part. One may also wonder why the band punctually used some rain, wind or thunder samples, which add nothing at all, while the music already spoke for itself - fortunately there are few of them.

Finally, despite these minor flaws, for those who are into this genre I can only recommend this strange journey that Monolithe I is. However if you’re looking for catchy tunes, you’d better stay away... but you’ll never know the experience you’ve been missing.