Apocalypse Now. MONO‘s haunting, emotionally stark but ultimately uplifting canon could be the sound-track to the COVID-19 lockdown. It encapsulates isolation, mortality, soul searching, fear – but delivers a guiding light of hope. This is a live recording of the legendary Japanese four-piece’s performance at the Barbican Centre in London, on December 14, 2019. The show, complete with full orchestra, was the culmination of a series of events celebrating their 20th anniversary.
Just a few months later the world would be plunged into a COVID nightmare.
As the amps buzzed then faded into silence at the climax of Com(?) the final track of the show no-one could have imagined what was ahead. Stumbling through the dark landscape of COVID , the blinking red light on MONO‘s amp on the far horizon are beacons through the murk. Beyond The Past is a remembrance of better times and a hint of brighter days ahead – when gigs can return again.
I’ve been listening to this for the last few weeks whilst recovering from surgery. No need for the gory details – but this album provided the comfort and immersion into another world, and time, I needed.
It begins with the fragility of God Bless, a gentle, lilting coda. However I’ll stop there. I’ll save you the bother of reading a catalogue of the tracks reeled off, and rated, one by one. This should not be broken down track by track. You don’t deconstruct a tide, wave by wave, as you float in the surf. You let it wash over you as one.
You cannot deconstruct each crushing chord atom by vibrating atom. Beyond The Past has to be experienced in its entirety over the three discs. Strap on the head-phones, ramp up the amp and immerse yourself in the beauty and soul of MONO.
Strap on the head-phones, ramp up the amp and immerse yourself in the beauty and soul of MONO…
Beyond The Past makes me yearn for the day when we can all experience gigs again. To feel that unity where strangers connect with each other and the band to feel as one. I miss that. This album brings that connection again and transports you. Close your eyes and you’re at the Barbican, feeling as one with 2,000 people, the band and the full orchestra.
Only when the record slides into the run out groove and the music stops, I’m back in COVID isolation looking out the window at a world we can barely touch – longing for the past and dreaming about the future.
MONO are transportive. They deal in chiaroscuro, the light and shade of delicate introspection and quite with crushing maelstroms. Sounds collapsing and merging into a storm, Death In Rebirth is like a star imploding, sheet metal grinding, worlds colliding. MONO are an orchestral rock band where every sound is beautifully nuanced. Even in the wildest sonic storm, there is out of chaos, order.
AA Williams provides ethereal vocals to Exit In Darkness which builds and builds to a crushing crescendo. With closer Com(?) MONO boast the perfect drop – it falls so low you can hear a pin drop. Everyone knows what’s coming – you can sense that anticipation buzzing from the crowd into your speakers. Then it drops – perfectly into a beautiful noise. It elevates you, brings light to your soul.
That is why we need bands with the vision, bravery and emotional resonance of MONO. They are the orchestra on the Titanic playing as we go down under the surface in the COVID-19 world, bringing light and hope amidst troubled times.
Scribed by: Sean MacRae