Review: Esben Willems ‘Glowing Darkness’

As well as being one of my favorite bands of the last decade or so, the three men that make up Monolord, guitarist/vocalist Thomas V Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki, and drummer Esben Willems, not only collectively unleash some of the most crushing, yet eerily melodic music on earth, they are all amazing, diverse musicians, super creative and seemingly interesting people, who routinely throw their support behind causes they are passionate about. The fact that they are serious coffee aficionados is a bonus.

Esben Willems 'Glowing Darkness' Artwork
Esben Willems ‘Glowing Darkness’ Artwork

They outwardly seem to get along, while giving each other their individual creative spaces, without jealousy or ego leading to toxicity, as Jäger,and Häkki have each released solo records, both displaying a mellower acoustic side yet stamped with each musicians individual artistic statements and personalities. Now, here, I suppose we could’ve guessed, comes the debut solo release from Esben WillemsGlowing Darkness.

What we couldn’t have guessed is the left-field music Willems crafted on Glowing Darkness. His creative impulses didn’t take him down the acoustic, trippy and/or folky side displayed by his bandmates. Instead, Willems, who commendably did all of the instrumentation himself, as well as writing and singing every song took the album into a whacky, unorthodox, punky, and at times Queens of the Stone Age-esque rock and roll fun-fest, that sometimes features a permeating darkness.

Opener, and first single, Cabaret Street is a bouncy, downstroke rocker, featuring hints of ’90s alternative rock, delivered with conviction as Willems immediately shows off his good, yet odd, vocal stylings. Staying in this sonic territory, Dear Demon is a driving, repetitive, bizarre, track with a nice riff, and plenty of rhythmic pop. The chorus is literally hammered into the listener’s psyche for almost a minute, ensuring that every time I think of him, or this record, the jukebox in my mind will instantly queue Dear Demon up.

Carte Blanche is also another quirky, stomping, QOTSA-esque track featuring some weird sounds and is that an accordion I hear? While Willems now-familiar, death-by-repetitive chorus approach is in full affect accentuated by his interesting vocal cadence. Embrace The Fall, meanwhile, proffers a more blusey approach, while the body of the song is carried by the excellent swing on the drums and well-placed cowbell hits that compliment his vocals.

a whacky, unorthodox, punky, and at times Queens of the Stone Age-esque rock and roll fun-fest…

Slow Rain is more of a somber, melancholic track, sequenced well and providing an aural switch up, before the alt-rock bounce of the title track, Glowing Darkness, wherein the unusual, yet cool vocal delivery once again is an unexpected highlight.

Space Bob is a bass-heavy, trance-like rhythmic track, that strangely conjures up some sad feelings. Perhaps it’s the guitar on the way out, or Willems repeating himself convincingly throughout the song that draws the listener in. The penultimate Fortune Teller is a nice, yet weird, back-porch, acoustic ditty, while closer, and second single Across The Everything serves as the album epic giving off ’90s alt-rock vibes, mixed with a QOTSA sensibility, and the quirky-ness, and originality displayed throughout the nine tracks.

Glowing Darkness was quite the surprise. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from his first solo release, but the songs he’s served up certainly were not it. This is a cool, weird, eccentric, unusual, rock album, made all the more interesting as Willems, who, it bears repeating, is the drummer for a doom metal band, crafted all of the material himself. As well, the album sounds fantastic as it was created in his now-legendary Studio Berserk in Gothenburg Sweden.

It’s been great to hear the members of Monolord branch out and express themselves creatively with different sounds. Perhaps now the trio have gotten their solo artist impulses out, they are ready to craft another cosmic doom record, but in the meantime, we now have Willems’ Glowing Darkness to absorb. Recommend.

Label: Majestic Mountain Records
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Scribed by: Martin Williams