(Despite the somewhat incestuous relationship between Andy Synn and the Dutch “Svpreme Avant Garde Death Metal” band The Monolith Deathcult, he has taken it upon himself to review their new album, which is set for
detonation release on May 14th.)
As anyone around here will tell you, The Monolith Deathcult and I have a fairly long and sordid history together.
Not only have I written about pretty much everything they’ve ever done (especially if you take into account the edition of The Synn Report I did on them just over a decade(!) ago), but I’ve also helped them with their promotional materials, and even been on tour with them a couple of times.
All of this, of course, makes me both the best and the worst person to be writing about the band’s new album, as while I’ve definitely got the right background and the insider info, mainline straight from the source, to really dig into the nitty gritty of the record, I’m sure there’s also a fair few people who are (understandably) going to be questioning my ability to be fair and impartial right now.
But, ultimately, there really was no-one else here at NCS who could write this review (and not just because everyone else was too busy).
After all, we all know that the only way for any band – even one as utterly shameless and reliably critic-proof as The Monolith Deathcult – to be truly judged (and, hopefully, convicted) is by a jury of their peers… which is why I swear to you that what you’re about to read is nothing but the truth, the whole goddamn truth, so help me (please help me) god…
As the final part of the band’s ambitious/ambigious “V” trilogy – which began with 2017’s Versus, continued with 2018’s Vergelding, and now finds its ultimate apotheosis – Vernedering has a lot to live up to, and a lot to answer for.
Although the trilogy was, if I’m not misremembering, originally conceived as a way of producing a series of shorter, more frequent releases (EPs in all but name, really), which would allow the band both to explore/expand their songwriting options a little more and to rework/re-record some older material to fit better alongside their “new”, post-Triumvirate style, it’s pretty clear that things didn’t exactly go to plan.
For one thing, although both the band’s previous two releases are significantly shorter than their usual, hour-length epics, Versus was/is still an imposing, album-length forty-seven minutes (and change) of music (and Vernedering is even longer), And while the first two parts of the trilogy were released roughly within one year of one another, it’s now been around two-and-a-half years since V3 was inflicted upon us, meaning that not only were two of the three releases not all that much shorter, the overall release schedule wasn’t that much more frequent either.
One thing that has held true, however, is that the “V” trilogy has given the band a little more space – both physically and mentally – to think a little more outside of their usual “everything turned up to eleven, including the kitchen sink” approach (most notably during drastically doomier and more dramatic tracks like “Die Glocke” and “Come Forth Lazarus”), and in this Vernedering is no exception.
What you’ll quickly notice, if you’re paying attention anyway, is that the songs on V3 (most of them, anyway) are, for want of a better word, much more “song-like”, than The Monolith Deathcult have conditioned us to expect.
Oh, sure, there’s still an outrageous amount of excess and preening pomposity on display (honestly, I’d have been disappointed if there wasn’t) but, for the most part, there’s also a much clearer focus on bigger riffs, bigger hooks, and a greater sense of clarity in the songwriting that allows the band to do more with less.
Of course, “less” is a relative term here, as the band’s beefy brand of genre-defying Death Metal is still loaded with all the usual symphonic bells and industrial whistles (albeit, perhaps slightly fewer than before), but things just don’t seem quite as frantic and overstuffed this time around.
Some people, of course, will probably see this as a failing – why even listen to The Monolith Deathcult if you’re not getting the full, unadulterated version, you may ask? – but to them I’d say… have you actually listened to the Ministry-meets-Fear-Factory-meets-Sepultura stomp of “Connect the Goddamn Dots” (written, as it happens, about flat-earthers, long before the world descended into its current state of counterproductive conspiratorial paranoia)? Because that, to me, is still very much The Monolith Deathcult we know and “love”.
And the same goes for songs like “Gone Sour, Doomed”, and the title-track (as you might have guessed, the album is z bit front-loaded) which showcase a version of the band – albeit still a very recognisable one – who are just that little bit more willing to let their riffs stick around a little longer, to let their hooks (and, dare I say, choruses) sink in a little deeper, and just generally strip things back, ever so slightly, to allow everyone and everything involved a little more room to breathe.
It’s not a perfect piece of work by any means – the fake Alex Jones voice-overs, for example, get pretty tiresome pretty quickly (the one at the end, in particular, just drags on and on), and the underwhelming “Blood Libels” should probably have been left on the cutting room floor – but it’s still got a lot to offer both the casual and the committed listener alike (“The White Silence” in particular hits many of the same doom-laden notes as the best parts of V1 and V2, but also recalls some of the darkest moments of the Triumvirate era at the same time).
And while I’m left with quite a few questions still unanswered (such as, is that meant to be a purposeful reference to the Spider-Man: Homecoming soundtrack during “Vernedering”? and why did the band decide to mash-up quotes from both Rambo and Starship Troopers – and then not even use the second, arguably even more iconic, part of of that Rambo-quote – during “They Drew First Blood”?), I have to say that V3 has left me very curious, very curious indeed, about where the band are going to go next.
Which, I guess, was probably their plan all along. Sneaky bastards.
P.S. The Monolith Deathcult will be doing a live stream of the new album via YouTube. Go here to sign up for a reminder of when it begins.