Review Summary: It's as if Deafheaven's former touring guitarist woke up one day and thought to himself, "I wonder what it'd sound like if those guys played punk?"
Black Monolith made their debut on the scene in 2011 with a short 3-track demo. Effectively combining gritty black metal and hardcore punk sounds, the short demo presented a raw, noisy, and fun
project with a lot of obvious potential. Fast forward three years, and we see Black Monolith continue to evolve this blackened punk style on their debut LP, Passenger
Like the demo, Passenger
also features a raw d-beat-infused black metal sound, but this time around places significantly more influence on the black metal side of the band, featuring many blast-beat-and-tremolo-riff sections, in addition to the group’s original d-beats-and-punky-riffs style. This increased focus on black metal allows the band to greatly expand their sound over the course of the record’s 40-minute runtime, while still allowing plenty of room for the group to remain true to their more hardcore-inspired beginnings.
In terms of expanding their sound, the record also sees the band not only experiment with a more straightforward brand of black metal, but also sees them emulate the currently popular post
-black metal sound as well. Given that guitarist and band founder Gary Bettencourt previously served as a touring guitarist for popular post-black metal band Deafheaven
, this new shift in style doesn’t seem like such a surprise. Now instead of simply expanding as a raw black/hardcore act, the group make heavy use of ambient/melodic guitar lines, giving the music a very “post-black metal” feel and adding significant atmosphere and texture throughout the whole of the album. While one might assume this new (obviously Deafheaven-inspired) shift in songwriting might water down the band’s trademark gritty black metal/hardcore sound, the inclusion of additional guitar lines actually works to enhance the band’s sound, adding points of melodic contrast to the otherwise heavy, aggressive music.
After a short noisy introductory track, the album wastes no time with opener Void
, featuring immediate blast beats and melodic-yet-heavy tremolo riffing before diving into more of a d-beat stomp in its latter half. The rest of the album seems to follow along a similar sort of duality--whether beginning with blasts or d-beats, each style eventually succumbs to the allure of the other, helping to make sure that neither wears out its welcome at any given time, as well as keeping the music dynamic and fresh throughout.
The two shortest tracks, Dead Hand
and Victims & Hangmen
, both open with strong, aggressive punk sections before flowing into more melodic territories. Oddly enough, each of these tracks are followed by the longer, rather opposite pieces, Adhere
and Gold Watch
, respectively. The former draws the most similarity to the previously mentioned Deafheaven, opening with a single lonely tremolo riff before exploding in a barrage of blasting drums and melodic riffs, later combining them with more up-beat punk drumming. The latter track hearkens back to the album’s opener, featuring a no-frills raw black metal approach before finding its way into a melodic, and then droning outro.
Album closer Eris
shows the most experimentation on the album, featuring minutes of droning, reverb-filled guitars until eventually switching to a rather uplifting post-rock section as its final outro before fading off into silence. As strange as it might sound for an album like this to end on such a positive note, the stomping, droning build-up provides the perfect contrast for such out-of-place, almost Hammock-esque positivity.
is an exceptional debut record from a young project with only one prior release to its name. Throughout its six main tracks, the band flawlessly combines dirty hardcore, black metal, and post-rock. While some of the pieces of the band’s new sound may be clearly borrowed, their execution and arrangement allow Black Monolith to truly stand out as one of the more interesting and inventive of the post-black metal bands of today.