(Andy Synn reviews the new album by The Monolith Deathcult, and we also present the premiere of a song from the album after the review. We apologize in advance to all our readers.)
Dedicated readers of the site will no doubt be aware of my long-running relationship with The Monolith Deathcult, dating all the way back to 2011 and encompassing, in the intervening years, numerous reviews, interviews, and tour dates (the most recent only a few weeks ago).
Heck, I even ended up helping the band rewrite the press release for this record simply because I didn’t think the original materials were up to scratch!
As a result you might be wondering whether this review is going to be full of bias, favouritism, and partisan hyperbole, to which I’d answer… of course it is.
In fact you’re probably better off thinking of this as a paid advertisement on behalf of Deathcult Inc.
Except I’m not getting paid…
And I’m actually going to be a bit critical in places…
But before we get into all that, how about some fun background info to whet your appetite?
Not quite an album, not quite an EP, Versvs 1 is an unusual beast in more ways than one. In fact, strictly speaking, this isn’t actually the new TMDC album.
Instead, Versvs 1 is the first in a series of three releases (you can probably guess what the next two are going to be called) made up of a mix of new songs and completely re-worked versions of earlier tracks – rewritten and overhauled to better suit the band’s current, cyber-symphonic sound – which will, collectively, eventually come together to form the group’s fifth full-length, Versvs, like some sort of devastating Death Metal version of Voltron.
Confusing? Maybe a little, but then The Monolith Deathcult have never been what one would describe as “normal” (or “sane”), so perhaps the only real surprise is that it’s taken them this long to do something like this!
Following the indulgent introduction of “Hal Sinden’s Radio Dramas” (yes, that Hal Sinden), the record kicks off with the blasting bombast of “The Furious Gods”.
Littered with pulsing electronic embellishments and scorching sonic shrapnel, the track is a stunning parade of belligerence, brutality, and all-round bad taste, punctuated by numerous samples drawn from the movie Whiplash as well as some surprisingly shred-tastic lead work from Carsten Altena (who appears on guitar here for the first time, having finally been lured out from behind his keyboard stand by the promise of fame, fortune, and a nice cup of tea).
I will say though that, although I generally love the track (particularly the irredeemably catchy, chug-and-chant section about five minutes in) it does overplay its hand a little, particularly when it comes to those Whiplash quotes/samples I mentioned above, which feel a little over-used/over-saturated.
Maybe less is more sometimes… who knew?
It’s a relatively minor criticism of course, and one which is quickly forgotten when the humongous doomery of “Die Glocke” (my personal favourite track, and one which finds the band addressing the failure of the Nazi atomic programme and its relationship with monstrous Lovecraftian deities from beyond) heaves its massive bulk into view, all gargantuan, guttural vocals, titanic riffs, and even some surprisingly subtle and creepy acoustic guitar work.
“Seven Months of Mysticum” is a dramatic reworking of “7 Months of Suffering” from The White Crematorium, taking the pulse-pounding intensity of the original and giving it an electric cattle-prod of dark symphonic swagger and evil atmosphere straight up the backside, after which the pairing of “Uchronian March of the Deathcult” and “This Inhuman Place Makes Inhuman Monsters” winds up doing some funny things to the dynamic of the record, as the former is essentially an extended, 5+ minute atmospheric intro to the latter, and kind of slows everything down a bit in a way I’m not sure I fully agree with.
Thankfully though, the morbidly infectious grooves of “This Inhuman Place…” soon sets things right with a barrage of chattering, gatling gun guitars, bristling hooks, and some of the band’s signature vocal interplay courtesy Messrs. Kok and Dekker.
The final track, “From the Stalinic Perspective” is another reworking of a song from 2005’s The White Crematorium… the title-track in fact… only this time remade into something slower, darker, and doomier (we’re talking full-on My Dying Bride levels of gloom by the end), with the lyrics reinterpreted to show the events of the original from – you guessed it – “the Stalinic Perspective”, making for one hell of a bleak and brooding finale which reminds you that although the band themselves are fully aware of the inherent absurdity at the heart of Death Metal, they’re often deadly serious when it comes to the subject matter of their songs.
Ultimately, the strange structure and format of this release makes it a little hard to classify/critique in the normal manner.
After all, since this is really only one-third of the band’s next album, should it therefore only get one-third of the praise/condemnation?
I’m not sure. But what I will say is this – love them or loathe them, The Monolith Deathcult have never been ones to play it “safe”, and Versvs 1 is only the first stage of an interesting experiment whose outcome is anything but predictable.
But whether it ends with the band bedecked in honour and glory, or tarred and feathered and driven through the streets, I’ll be there… watching… and waiting…
Versvs 1 will be released by Hammerheart Records on May 19th. Below, we present the premiere of “Die Glocke” along with a stream of the previously released track “This Inhuman Place Makes Human Monsters“.
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