Review Summary: A 57 minute journey to the ends of all the earths.
Monolithe are a strange entity in the doom genre. From their very first album, suitably titled Monolithe I, they took a unique twist on the genre, uplifting and often 'beautiful' doom passages, which seems almost contradictory to place in the same sentence. This juxtaposition worked wonders however in presenting the birth of the universe.
Monolithe II was the album that most closely represents 'conventional' funeral doom, insofar as it was removed from the more uplifting aspects of the debut; a far colder and more alien environment. I feel this album is far more attuned to the coldness of space; planets crashing into each other, indifferent to the destruction of the potential inhabitants on board.
Monolithe III was another beast entirely, a far more progressively inclined composition; the riff salad of the first ten minutes is testament to that. This album feels far more like the human struggle with conceiving their surroundings, as well as the nature of the ever present 'Monolith'. Of course, this is just speculation on my behalf.
What then, is Monolithe IV? It represents the end of the Monolithe narrative, and in terms of what it sounds like, granted you are familiar with the trilogy beforehand, is an argumentation of their previous sounds combined. The doom feeling of IV is definitely closest in spirit to Monolithe II, but it is far less cold an album; instead of the bleakness of space, and the sparseness of instrumentation, IV is rich with textures and dynamic. Block heavy from the very start, it's fifteen minutes before we even get a hint of reprieve, and even then it is short lived. The theme feels most in tune with the end of the world; the final chapter.
There are new instruments and experiments to note of course. Monolithe aren't the kind of band to stay static, and here we have even female vocals as a counterpoint to the main vocalists gutturals. The music flows like a tidal wave, less the fragmented nature of III, much more smooth and consistent a journey. That's not to say that we're missing the essentials of Monolithe, a piano solo, the progressive dabbling and drum machine are still intact.
The new developments IV brings to the table become most notable past the half hour mark, namely a middle eastern tinged segment and a few more introspective moments amongst the heavy doom. The keyboards sit further back in the mix, but often intersect with the operatic female vocals, especially in the closing passages, as we are driven towards the inevitable close of the Monolithe saga. The atmosphere conjured up in IV is definitely the most oppressive of their albums, the return of bass instrumentation that was sorely lacking in III is very welcome; adding more dynamic weight, especially noticeable through headphone listening. The progressive elements that stood out strong in III now are intrinsically mixed into the much more persistent atmosphere.
While its predecessor was a difficult deviation from the previous full lengths with a dominating progressive element far aside from conventional funeral doom, jumping from passage to passage with little time spent on some quite fantastic micro-sections (that were also never revisited), IV returns to the core sound of earlier full lengths on the most part, a more consistent, almost dirge like journey. While not completely bereft of uplifting parts; namely those offered by the addition of female vocals and slightly toned back but still present melodic counters to the overwhelming doom - this is definitely the heaviest and most, dare I say, difficult to process album.
It's a distinctive release from Monolithe, and it solidifies their individual development as a band beyond the confines of the doom genre. Monolithe is best described as sounding monolithic here, but make no mistake, it is not as if this is a more static, unchanging display - but you must look much deeper then before to uncover what makes this album their most mature and refined work yet.
Here is a link to the album streaming online.
Originally written for Rateyourmusic: http://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/monolithe/monolithe_iv/