Monolord’s ascension to the forefront of the global stoner/doom consciousness has been as swift as it has been deserved. The Gothenburg trio, guitarist/vocalist Thomas V Jäger, drummer and sound engineer Esben Willems, and bassist Mika Häkki have left such a massive impact with their signature sound, overall tone, riff-hypnosis, and crushing heaviness the last decade, any new release is met with breathless anticipation by the global heavy rock underground.
Since the release of Empress Rising in 2014, Monolord have continued to evolve their sound with each new release, without overtly changing that sound. The evolution started right away with their second album Vænir, Monolord proving they’re not content to just pound the listener into submission with riffage, Jäger added just a drop of melody to the pummeling with a track like The Cosmic Silence.
This evolution continued through Rust, the band sounding ever-so-slightly more accessible, so by the time 2019s No Comfort was released, Monolord were able to occupy a space where their heaviness and weight were also conveyed with emotion, as Jäger was able to turn off the fuzz and get the same energy with his voice and lyrics. Their evolution has been a marvel to behold, and unlike some bands (Mastodon, I’m looking at you) they were able to add melody to their sound without drastically altering it, instead, it completely served the songs and added even MORE heaviness to their sound due to the emotional heft.
Your Time to Shine, Monolord’sfifth record, and second for Relapse Records, continues this forward evolution, even as the pounding notes of the opener and lead single The Weary come lurching through the speakers. Monolord quickly settle into one of Jäger‘s signature riffs, if not certainly on the catchier, earworm side. As always, the band sounds absolutely fantastic, right away as Häkki’s signature bass tone, as always melds perfectly with Jäger‘s riffage, giving Monolord the weight we all know and love. Willems, as well, sounds fantastic as always. Their groove is instantly on full display, yet as heavy as The Weary is, it’s also notable for being as sonically accessible as it is.
To Each Their Own owns such an undeniable swing courtesy of Willems and Häkki before falling into an airy verse. Jäger has really come into his own as a singer. He’s always had a great voice but with all the effects, and riffage it certainly wasn’t at the forefront of some of Monolord’s older material. On To Each Their Own his voice, coupled with his introspective lyrics, gives this track the emotional heft I alluded to earlier. So, when the riffage and Willems and Häkki come back around with that swing, the result is massive and crushingly heavy. This dynamic works extraordinarily well on this track, all leading to an epic, mournful breakdown and finish.
Your Time to Shine continues both Monolord’s evolution as well as their upward trajectory, without sacrificing one iota of their trademarked riff worship or heaviness…
The second single I’ll Be Damned‘s intro march, and distorted lyrics, soon give way to Jäger‘s multitude of riffs, as Monolord twist and turn, putting the listener into their signature-riff-hypnosis, only now instead of bludgeoning with the same repetitive riff for the duration, the listener is offered a plethora of riffs, as well as melody, yet the song loses none of its impact. As well, each song feels like its own, self-contained entity, yet they flow seamlessly from one to the other, giving the album great overall sequential cohesiveness.
The title track, Your Time to Shine, is an epic, colossus of a song, with what feels like multiple layers, and movements. Häkki’s chest-rumbling bass is both heard and literally felt right off the bat, as Monolord take the slow-burn route building the song up, bringing it down, all as a sense of sorrow permeates through the entire track. Again, the emotional heft they achieve on this record is as heavy as their most punishing early-doom, riff-fests. The outro features a killer, spacey guitar from Jäger, before Willems and Häkki join in, putting the listener into not a riff-hypnosis, but a Monolord hypnosis.
Closer, The Siren Of Yersinia begins as a rumbling Monolord monster before drifting off into Jäger‘s airy, guitar and vocals, the melancholy not understated by a violin layered across the band. Monolord unveil more layers, as this track unfolds, almost feeling like a mini-album, riff after riff is introduced as the band builds towards a rumbling, thick, conclusion, as all three musicians display their individual strengths, Willems, even adding some cowbell, showing how collectively they bring the Monolord sound into vivid fruition.
Your Time to Shine continues both Monolord’s evolution as well as their upward trajectory, without sacrificing one iota of their trademarked riff worship or heaviness. The character and melody injected into these songs enhance them, never distracting from them. Monolord have managed to continue to alter their sound, evolving, without changing what makes them Momolord.
Your Time to Shine sounds fantastic, as one would expect from three musicians that possess such singular sounds from their individual instruments, to say nothing of how they sound collectively. The album was recorded at Willems own Studio Berserk, keeping it close to home, and the results are what we’ve now come to expect from Monolord. Another album of the year candidate.
Scribed by: Martin Williams