Monochromatic Black - Pneuma - (10/10)
Published on May 5, 2019
Broken Bones Fuse
Long Island based progressive hardcore new-comers Monochromatic Black have finally put out their eagerly anticipated debut “Pneuma”. I’ve been waiting on this one for over a month now and after a few close-up streams, I’m thoroughly convinced that it doesn’t just live up to the expectation, but quite simply shatters it. The comparisons to Jinjer, Arch Enemy & co will inevitably start flowing but I feel like MB are an entity of their own that won’t allow any of these associations to stand. The album is only 24 minutes long but in that short playtime, it packs up more punch and creativity (and simply more notes) than some bands do in a lifetime. They have already been turning a lot of heads with the pre-released singles “The Herd” and “Phosphenes”, and for me personally they totally blew the Game of Thrones hype out of the water. It’s quickly becoming obvious that this band will have a stellar ascension, so if you want to be the douche who says “I knew them before they were famous” slap on a pair of noise cancelling headphones, play the video below and get ready for the shock wave.
First time hearing this band, I was pretty much floored by their technical capabilities and the utter savagery of their sound. It’s definitely the kind of music that shocks you, and not just when you hit play but all the way through a song. Tempos are always changing, progressive riffs alternate with straightforward bangers, and the breakdowns show up out of the blue, leaping at you like a wild beast that hasn’t eaten in a month. It’s dynamic, unpredictable, hectic and jaw-droppingly fast and it’s all topped by Tanya’s stellar vocals. The riffs are insanely difficult and the crunchy tone of the guitars helps amp up the adrenaline even further. The guitar leads keep the fast technical direction and at times, Johnny’s shredding reminded me of Jason Richardson’s style. Maybe that’s just me, but while the guitar sound is obviously gritty and filthy as hardcore metal requires, you can’t ignore how precise and accurate the delivery is. Some portions such as the solo for “Phosphenes” or the clean interlude in “Dream Catcher” send the string section into more melodic directions but for most of the running time it’s all about the roar. The shit really hits the fan when you add Eddie’s drilling double kicks and blast beats to the mix. He’s the driving force that keeps the energy flowing and creates the backbone of the record and he also displays more of a groovy side when the music needs to shift gears.
Shock and awe delivered, but the real magic happens when you spend some time with the music and become familiar with it. Giving the songs a closer listen will eventually unveil the cohesive nature of the structures and the strong emotions that come alongside it. As heavy as the album is you shouldn’t lose contact with the creative colorful complexity of it. It has a natural cohesive flow at the core that makes everything fall into place and even seamlessly ties one song to the next. Contrasting ideas are so beautifully chained together, so that every shift in pace is used to either build up on the energy or create suspense before a downpour. It seems that from a creative standpoint these guys are a lot more colorful than their name suggests.
Now how in the name of all that is holy do you build a vocal layer over such a bumpy instrumental? Ask Tanya! She knows! Her performance displays properly suited earth bending gutturals that are as aggressive as a hardcore record needs and heavy enough to tear a hole through time. While that’s where the shock usually occurs with female singers I find her cleans just as impressive. She adds a completely different dimension to the music with a robotic processed sound that is part soothing part creepy. It may be just me but I also feel like there’s a classic jazz singing influence in there too. The vocals are about as dynamic as the rest of the music and from a rhythm perspective she treats her voice as an instrument. It’s her ability follow the pace of the songs and switch between clean and guttural as well as the layering of the different kinds of vocals that leaves me breathless. This is the very definition of vocal flexibility and I think what makes the vocals so expressive and powerful is the lyrical content. There’s a very strong “Wake the fuck up” attitude in the lyrics. Be it politics, social standards, a toxic relationship or routine, this album will push you to overcome it. I really like that it’s kept abstract and relatable for the most part. Basically whatever your demons are, Tanya will put a spike through their heart and send them spinning straight to hell. It has an empowering healing tone and considering the album’s cover artwork, I think it’s related to her wild-life rescue experience.
Best debut of 2019? Very likely! For me it is and I have serious doubts that anyone will top it. What I admire most is that everything up to this point was done independently especially considering the production quality of the sound. It may be just a matter of time until labels start sinking their teeth in each other’s necks to get a contract with this band. That’s a lot of words. How about you put it to the test? If you like heavy or technical stuff Pneuma is right up your alley. Brace for impact and give it go. You won’t be disappointed.