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Monads : IVIIV

At last, Belgium's Monads back up their impressive demo with an improved-in-every-way debut.

It has been a while. Just over six years, in fact, since Belgium's Monads quietly slipped out their swiftly sold-out 50-copy cassette demo 'Intellectus Iudicat Veritatem' and started gathering a surprising degree of praise and acceptance. Not surprising in the sense of 'undeserved', I hasten to add: more surprising in way that the previously-unheralded 'pentad' of members from various other (largely Black Metal-based) bands arrived like some sort of fully formed Death/Doom supergroup, cranking out a mature and intelligent take on the Evokenesque slow-to-funereal-paced end of the genre.

Well, I have to admit I bought into that, and thoroughly enjoyed the near-debut-quality 'demo' when I reviewed it in 2012 label CD release form. Wind on down the line, and finally we have a successor: 'IVIIV', being offered through the top-notch and ever-interesting Aesthetic Death catalogue. So, what would you like to know: has it been worth the wait? Does it live up to the promise of the demo? Has it maintained the intellectual and compositional standard of its gnostic predecessor? Yes, yes, and yes. Job done; I guess I could stop there and slap a mark on it. But I suppose you're expecting a little more elaboration on those points...so here goes...

Okay, if there was anything that distinguished Monads from anyone else choosing to plough that slow, cold and harsh Mournful Congregation-esque furrow it was - first and foremost - the completeness of their image and concept, wrapped in symbology and presented as an oblique enticement for the listener to fathom out what layers of meaning they cared to. That intellectual and occult framework persists here, starting with the compound acronym of the title: I signifying unity, the Monad itself, V for the pentad of the band, IIV as shorthand for the John Dee quote that was also the title of the demo.

Musically - well, I wouldn't necessarily blame anyone for considering glacial-paced Funeral/Death/Doom a fairly crowded field these days, even more so than when the band first appeared, and - to an extent - it is a difficult one in which to shine out as a beacon of originality. Indeed, there's a strong case to be made that the Funeral side of it requires the opposite - a complete lack of features, almost, to prevent any distraction from the extended and hypnotically incremental progress it defines - while the less rigid boundaries of the Death part of the equation have already been explored by countless other bands. Both, however, are genres where execution and atmosphere can reign supreme, and in that Monads score highly, combining laconic, spacious musical iterations with more icily harsh and aggressive passages that really do suck the listener in to a place where they can punch home an emotional impact. Kudos is also very much due for the way they can integrate uptempo Black Metal blasts with a seamless fluidity that sounds neither incongruous nor forced.

Vocalist R. Polon's weary-sounding projections of resignation, pain, and sometimes fury, deserve a special mention for the way they strike a perfect balance to the music. And I think I should probably note that, for a five-piece band, the soundstage is remarkably uncluttered - in what seems almost the complete opposite of, say, a power trio trying to fill the gaps and sound busier than they actually are, Monads appear quite content to strip that back and present something which often sounds like a smaller, but perfectly synchronised and synchronous, band than they are. It certainly doesn't hurt that the presentation has improved, with a cleaner and sharper edge to the instruments and a greater heft to the drums than on the demo. The semi-acoustic-sounding instrumental interludes, too, have a clearer focus and a fuller, more satisfying spaciousness to them. So, while you may think a lot of this sounds superficially familiar - the devil's in the detail, and the details are both interesting and somewhat unusual.

To summarise (and if you'd like some more detailed explanation of the above points from Monads' founder, I'd simply draw your attention to the companion interview with Hans), I think this has, completely, hit the target they were aiming for, and whether you ultimately view it as a very professional take on genre standards, or a more distinct expression of what cold and painful truths you wish to explore in your Death/Doom collection, it's got the chops to stand up there with the best of them. Thoroughly recommended, on every level.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Leviathan As My Lament
2. Your Wounds Were My Temple
3. To A Bloodstained Shore
4. The Despair Of An Aeon

Duration : Approx. 50 minutes

Visit the Monads bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-12-18 by Mike Liassides
A Dream Of Poe - The Wraith Uncrowned
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