It's not often that I describe an album as "crushing". But if someone asked me how I'd describe the latest release Vænir by Monolord, I'd say "Hey someone, this album is CRUSHING."
Doom metal is really popular right now. Like, maybe even a little, TOO popular. The term gets bandied about and applied to a lot of heavy music releases that don't quite fit the bill. Monolord is NOT in this group. These guys are the real deal.
There was pretty much a collective circle jerk around their 2014 release Empress Rising, with good reason. It was a great record. Not only that, but a great record by a band that started as a side project. Incidentally, I always enjoy it when musicians get together without a group even being their primary focus and create excellent material. Now we have a follow-up with insanely high expectations, but have no fear, because Vænir is here, and it's going to blow your mind.
At the time of this review, I've listened to the supplied promo six times. Seriously, I liked this album enough to listen to it six times prior to writing about it. I enjoy it a little bit more with each session, because there is so much to love from this slab of Swedish sludge.
It's just a great example of what a doom album should be. The trio combines the type of heavy, detuned riffage you'd expect, but they aren't afraid to throw in some leads and a little wah guitar here and there to keep it interesting. It's REALLY difficult to write an interesting 3 minute song, let alone an 8 minute one, but they manage to pull it off in opener and first single 'Cursing The One'. Things are crushingly oppressive right from the get go, but Monolord never commits the sin of overdoing one lick or groove. They smartly switch things up to keep you engaged for the entirety. Even the 17 minute title track doesn't feel that long thanks to strong writing.
Thomas Jager's reverb-drenched "I'm trapped in a hellish eternal void" vocals are the icing on the blackened cake, adding the final morose layer and complete the vibe. If I can levy one minor criticism about Vænir it's that the vocals sit a bit lower in the mix on a few songs than I'd like. Again, a small ding for an otherwise outstanding album.
My favorite track by far was 'Died a Million Times'. Go listen to it now on their Bandcamp page and let a slow headbang begin to come over you. The track kills.
Vænir has made a strong case for itself to become my frontrunner for 2015 metal album of the year (and we got a new Acid King release this year!) and is sitting right next to Dopethrone in my playlist right now. If you are a fan of doom metal, this is a must own. No excuses. Even if you're reading this saying "What the hell is doom metal?" I'll tell you "It's what people think Ozzy invented before he had a reality TV show" and then say YOU should still go check out Vænir because it's that good, and you may dig it if you enjoy any kind of heavy music.
P.S. - Bonus points are awarded for having a song named "Nuclear Death", and cover art that reminded me of Dark Souls for some reason. Now enough reading, go listen!