Review Summary: Mono achieve what countless other post-rock bands can only strive for.
Mono doesn't really require an introduction. The Japanese post-rockers who comprise this band have made a name for themselves by playing long, epic compositions that just seem to evoke a more emotional response than the compositions of their peers. As they have aged and matured, Mono have released increasingly enjoyable albums. After their long player You Are There
was released in 2006, some fans pondered as to where Mono would go after such an ambitious album. With Hymn To The Immortal Wind
, Mono has decided with conviction to go bigger. Way bigger. While bigger isn't always better, Hymn To The Immortal Wind
proves that in certain cases it can be.
Opener "Ashes In The Snow" begins minimally enough, with a glockenspiel playing a rather simple melody. After some plaintive guitar enters the aural landscape, the orchestra makes its first appearance. While post-rock bands often employ a lone violinist, or even a violinist and cellist, Mono went for broke and hired an entire ***ing orchestra
. This lends the music a massive, cinematic presence that really engulfs you. After going through several build ups and wind downs, guitarist Taka plays an ascending tremolo riff that reaches for the heavens. Once the orchestra chimes in, you know exactly what's coming: the good old crescendo. After a solid 8 minutes of impressive restraint, Mono completely lets loose for the last 4 minutes of "Ashes In The Snow", bringing out crashing percussion, beautiful tremolo guitar, and epic-but-not-cheesy orchestration. In short, it's an utter masterpiece where Mono really shows what its got. After "Ashes In Snow" is "Burial At Sea", another showcase in post-rock mastery. This track sort of pales in comparison to the others present. I'm not trying to say it's a bad song, it just doesn't quite live up to the standards of the other songs on Hymn To The Immortal Wind
. After an orchestral workout in the form of "Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn", Mono delves into another epic titled "Pure As Snow (Trails Of The Winter Storm)". This recurring theme of snow is represented well by both the delicacy and reckless abandon that Mono revels in. "Pure As Snow" begins with a lone melancholy guitar that is soon joined by the orchestra and the rest of the band. This track follows the typical structure that dictates most post-rock songs: After building up tension, release it in a crescendo, then do it again. Yes, it has been done before, but not quite like this. The palpable emotion felt on tracks like "Pure As Snow", the aforementioned "Ashes In The Snow", or the elegantly grand closer "Everlasting Light" isn't something that every post-rock band can get across.
That's the thing that really sets Mono apart from their contemporaries. The gut-wrenching emotion and cinematic atmosphere they achieve nears grandiosity, but feels far too real to be pretentious or stuck up. The urgency felt in "The Battle To Heaven"? That's genuine. The mournful wanderings of "Pure As Snow"? Also real. The divine sense of triumph at the conclusion of "Ashes In The Snow"? As real as it gets. To listen to this album is to engage emotionally with Mono, through all of their glorious highs and lows. Hymn To The Immortal Wind
is truly an experience, one that any post-rock fan should enjoy.