“The Barren Depths” is the third and final song on Zeta Reticuli, the monumental new album by the unusual French progressive doom band Monolithe, which is set for release on July 8 by Debemur Morti Productions. In its full length, the song lasts for 15 magnificent minutes (as do the other two tracks). However, Monolithe have also prepared an edited version of the song that is almost exactly half that length, and it has been made the soundtrack for a stunning video that we’re premiering today.
After a sequence of four records (collectively known as “The Great Clockmaker” saga), each of which consisted of a single album-length track, Monolithe spent most of 2015 on a new project with an expanded line-up, recording two connected new albums respectively titled Epsilon Aurigae and Zeta Reticuli (each named for a binary star system). The first of those was released in December 2015, and Zeta Reticuli will follow six months later.
Monolithe have already earned a reputation for expanding the boundaries of doom in fascinating and imaginative ways — and expanding it far out into the cosmos as well. Zeta Reticuli will only cement that reputation; it is a musical epic in the truest sense of the word, a tremendously powerful, panoramic, and mystical excursion into the frigid vastness of space. And like Epsilon Aurigae, it continues to represent something of a departure from the musical style developed through the band’s first four albums.
The full-length version of “The Barren Depths” (which includes guest vocals by Guyom Pavesi (Devianz, The Copperfields) is a wholly immersive and transporting experience. It begins with strange, alien sounds, like a mix of radio signals and the warbling tones of water circling a drain, soon joined by ringing, rhythmic guitar notes. When the big, slow riffs and the earth-shaking rhythm section join in, it’s as if the ground beneath your feet has begun to quake.
Dismal chords ring out, the riffs become more jagged and jabbing, and the music begins to take on an increasingly oppressive and hostile atmosphere — and then, by contrast, wailing vocals in a classic doom style come soaring in over the titanic movement of the instruments. The band develop further contrast through a gliding, sinuous dual-guitar melody, with a high, clear tone that almost resembles the sound of pipes or flutes calling.
After an interlude near the mid-point, which takes the music in an even more dreary and hallucinatory direction, more subdued and somber vocals appear and the tempo increases, the riffs becoming more urgent and intense, and eventually locking into a massive groove.
While the pulsing, head-nodding bass and powerhouse drumming get your head moving, the final three-and-a-half minutes of the song are devoted to an extended, multi-layered guitar solo that shimmers, reverberates, warbles, glistens, and builds in intensity. Listening to it is like being transported into an opium dream, a narcotic dream of space. It’s among the most gripping and fascinating three-and-a-half minutes of music you’re likely to find anywhere this year — though its transcendent power is undoubtedly due to the mind-bending effect of everything in the song that precedes it.
The edited version of the song is a creative truncating of the full experience; it stands alone so well that unless you had heard the full song, you would not realize that it is a remolding of something much longer. At the end, you even get a taste of that remarkable finishing solo, maybe enough of a taste that you’ll be left hungry for the full experience.
The video is a perfect match for the chilling cosmic sweep of the music, the visuals becoming as captivating, immense, mystical, and hallucinatory as the song itself. The song easily gets stuck in your head; so do the visions that accompany it.
The album features artwork and design by Robert Høyem (Overhaus.com). It can be pre-ordered via these links:
Trifold 3xLP Vinyl Edition: