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*facepsalm* - 53%

zeingard, June 27th, 2015

For some people, the almighty "heavy riff" is the alpha and omega of their heavy metal scripture; they make their pilgrimage daily in search of the next amplifier to worship. There's something so simple but earnest about their approach to not only seeking out but ingesting music. Unfortunately their advice does not translate well onto people outside of their congregation. This of course will not stop them from taking you aside to talk about their Monolord and saviour, 'Vaenir'.

If the obnoxiously snarky tone of the opening paragraph didn't tip you off, 'Vaenir' is not a particularly good album and you may have suffered severe head trauma or spent too long standing downwind of a diesel exhaust. The guys of Monolord obviously have a clear image in mind for their sound, where they find a haunting middle ground between pyschedelia and doom metal: a monolithic cavern where every sound echoes out unimpeded, endless.

'Vaenir' falls short of this goal and ultimately comes off a rather tired and dull affair, as the every song just feels so monotonous, repetitive and ironically enough, too slow. To say that about a stoner/doom band comes off as completely fatuous but Monolord have trouble with consistently finding a comfortable balance between good riffs and dynamic pacing. Their songs feel like they're one riff, solo or tempo change away from being so much more interesting.

Take "We Will Burn" a solid seven minute song with maybe three riffs, all of which cover a broad range of styles within the genre and transition from one to the other perfectly, particularly the one at 5:10 which is absolutely savage. From that point they just ride that admittedly fantastic riff right to the end of the song without really using that to go anywhere else, just letting the song essentially peter out. The first half, which sounds like a decent Electric Wizard emulation, can only really be validated with the success of the latter half which initially it is but the band never capitalise on that pacing and tonal shift.

The first three songs of 'Vaenir' are defined by this inability to realise the next piece of the puzzle with their songwriting, while the latter half is mono-dimensional, forgettable garbage. Excluding 'The Cosmic Silence', the forgettable interlude track that no one except maybe the band will ever care about, 'Died a Million Times' and the title cut are painfully long and boring. They are over ten minutes long and are just as interesting and exciting as you would expect from a band who can barely keep your attention for six.

If you haven't listened to 'Vaenir' then you probably aren't the type of person mentioned in the opening paragraph and won't gain anything from investing your time into it.

Monolord - Vænir - 70%

ThrashManiacAYD, April 28th, 2015

Though by no means a big name in the stoner/doom field yet, there is something I find steadfastly reassuring about the Swedish trio Monolord. Basing my opinion off last year’s debut LP "Empress Rising", their very recent London show and now album #2, "Vænir", there is nothing truly revelatory about their style that I haven’t heard done by a host of others, but the thumping tone they provide and the overall conviction of performance does enough to generate warmth in my cold, stubborn heart.

"Vænir" gets to work with a much beefier and less caustic guitar tone than heard on "Empress Rising" as the overall sound and production is enhanced. Much like their gig I find myself impressed with the heaving weight of Mika Häkki’s bass - it feels as if each note is sufficiently powerful to register on the Richter scale - while Thomas V. Jäger’s guitar tone sits more comfortably atop that bulging, forceful mass. His vocal performance is, if anything, more lost to the vagaries of time and distance (and reverb) in an odd contrast to the overall enhancement of sound as he takes the Electric Wizard-approved template of a hazy, dissonant approach not as if his utterances are being adjusted by a wah-wah pedal. Not willing to be outdone, Esben Willems' drum sound is cleaner than last time out and less buried in audial muck further boosting the firm punch-in-the-face that is the majority of "Vænir”, of which five of its six tracks kick like a donkey in steel toe-capped boots (the other, semi-instrumental "The Cosmic Silence" is taken straight from the "Planet Caravan" rulebook of trippy excursions).

The opening, lead riff to "Cursing the One" is enough to show Monolord mean business. The weight as each beat rams home takes my mind back to the inevitability of head-nodding at that show, with only Jäger’s vocal introduction causing the track to soften the blow. Like Windhand before them, Monolord don’t display a significant amount of variation within each track - the most "Cursing…" manages is a momentary slow, over-driven simple riff structure without the rhythm section; "We Will Burn" barely manages that, providing a cyclical barrage of Wizard-esque rolling riffage. By the time "Died a Million Times" comes round at track four we finally get any sense of change in Jäger’s delivery as the chorus’ vocal melody rolls smoothly off the tongue, but it is fair to say this doesn’t elicit any significant change in the musical tonality, as the procession of involving, yet consistent, riffs pile on. Maybe there is more to the Monolord name than meets the eye.

17-minute closer "Vënir", not before time, brings the biggest change in that respect, with Jäger’s squealing guitar work and Häkki’s thoroughly doom paced backing bringing to mind the mighty Goatsnake, a band who know how to write a riff. Though it takes an age for any significant variation on that theme to appear, that conviction I opened with allows the song ample opportunity to proceed onwards like a lumbering train with no driver. While it may paint in few colours and with limited strokes "Vænir" is not just the weightiest album I’ve heard in some time, but is certifiably better than the latest Electric Wizard and Windhand records – enough to make doom fans take note.

Originally written for