Review Summary: Monolithe are in 7th heaven.
Seven albums… seven tracks… seven minutes each – Monolithe have found a new theme to define their 2018 full-length whilst showing an accessible pathway to a sonic shift in the band’s sound. France based Monolithe have had quite a polarising career. Since debuting a four part series of forward thinking storytelling, filled to the brim with atmosphere and verbose contextual grandeur only to be wrapped up a decade after the debut, Monolithe continue to showcase compositions intended to be considered at an other-worldly level, changing their musical style only when the context demands it. For better or worse this formula has allowed Monolithe to stay with the doom metal magnates and cement their name amongst the best the genre has to offer.
On a first listen, it’s easy to see that Monolithe are content in moving away from the (almost) hour-long dirges found on the band’s initial releases or even the fifteen minute efforts found on the likes of Zeta Reticuli
and Epsilon Aurigae
, highlighting the change in styles between albums. With Nebula Septem
’s tracks clocking in at seven minutes each the listener can be thankful that the full monolithic approach isn’t on show here. Monolithe’s former brand of majestic funeral doom would be incredibly out of place within such a short run time; like a balloon filled with too much air tracks would burst without any hope of restoring the fragments to their original place. As it stands, Nebula Septem
has a more traditional doom vibe, relying heavily on its death metal style to carry riffs from one end of the album to the other.
Despite the obvious move away from past sounds there’s no denying that listeners can still enjoy what French-based Monolithe are offering circa 2018. The compositions found here are strong, dense and echo the typical heaviness of a death/doom record but unfortunately meld into each other too easily, with only a few tracks providing their own individual sense of contrast. At times the album pushes merciless forwards, creating an oppressive and foreboding listen, conforming to atmospheric climbs and sinister overtones, Monolithe have always had a knack for creating atmosphere. It seems the main flaws here come from not returning to the sweeping, majestic compositions that launched them to the top of the proverbial doom metal podium.
From the outside looking in, it’s easy to see just how much thought was placed into Nebula Septem
’s creation. With the track times and quantities already mentioned we can move onto the Latin translation of “Septem”; Seven and a minor detailing in the track titling that only uses the first seven letters (A through to G) in order . Seven white rings also contrast a black background of the album art showing that these French doom masters put as much effort into the delivery of their 2018 effort as the recorded component. Nebula Septem
’s production is tight, clean and clinical allowing every element to contribute to Nebula Septem
’s dense, if somewhat brief deathened doom affair. The growls are consistent, varying slightly from track to track, helping define the moods set between rage, sorrow, anxiety and even space-y hope, backed by a consistent instrumental delivery. Unlike the band’s previous records, listener engagement tends to drop off with repeated spins of the album, falling victim to the previously mentioned ‘blending’ of tracks. If you like concise death/doom metal Nebula Septem
should tick all the right boxes. For those who want “just that little bit more” from their funeral doom metal records, Nebula Septem
unfortunately falls short of blowing away the listener.
Overall there are plenty of strengths found within Monolithe’s latest record; making it an excellent entry point for new fans that aren’t familiar (or patient) enough to sit through grand gestures of fifty-plus minute doom compositions. Nebula Septem
however is a weaker album than the band’s Roman Numeral titled works but can be easily found on a par with Zeta Reticuli
and Epsilon Aurigae
when given to the right atmosphere. Take what you will from this release, for it’s certainly not a bad record. Monolithe will still demand listeners’ attention for years to come.