Review Summary: replacement value
Is it ever a good move when a band adds a bunch of new musicians?
Fascinated as I am by the dynamics of lineup change, I’ve been racking my brain on this very topic for several weeks now, contemplating the sounds of the new Verheerer disc, “Monolith”, which offers a lot of the same goodies prevalent on the debut full-length, 2018’s incredible “Maltrér”. It was a duo record like few others I’ve heard - grim, frosty black metal but with surging crescendos, flashes of thrash and death metal brilliance spot-welded in all the right places. In fact, if you listen to “Maltrér” loud enough, a priestess with an eyepatch will appear and drink all your bourbon. Not bad for a singer, guitarist, and a few session guests.
The lineup that recorded Monolith includes a new drummer, bassist, AND second guitarist. According to the press kit, the band involved the new members directly in the songwriting process and it shows. When things change this radically, it almost seems unfair to compare one record to the other, but such is the quandary in judging it. So, grab your skinny jeans and acne lotion, and we’ll get on it.
It was apparent to me that there was something radically different about the band from the very first spin. The template is the same as the debut, longer songs mostly in the 6-minute range capped by the dastardly roars of Bastian Hinz with majestic solos swirling and storming, and odd between-song sound effects and diatribes a la The Ruins of Beverast. New drummer Simon Kranz is an upgrade from the couple of session guys that pulled together the last record, and its particularly obvious in cuts like “The Fatalist”, which is a speed-on-speed scorcher adorned with howling leads and shades of classic Euro-metal from yesteryear. “Serpent Grave” seems to be the focal point of the album, morphing a hooky clean melody into a raging speedbeast .
What’s missing are the crescendos of the last record. The performances are strong almost to the point of slickness, and for all this virtuosity there isn’t a moment on the album that delivers the simple hard-slashing potency of “Vertigo” or the headbanging bliss of “Anima Sola”. In fact, the only song on the album that competes with the debut is closer “Theios Aner & Irrisio”, slowing down to a processional pace, bouncing through some great ***ing riffs, everything coming together in epic fashion like a wine & cheese party in the catacombs.
In the final analysis, “Monolith” deserves kudos for at least sounding like Verheerer, considering the overhaul. Here’s hoping the new players aren’t too technically brilliant for their own good and can settle down and deliver some of the crunching, chugging magic that made the first record such a milestone.