Monolith Cult - Gospel Of Despair - (8.5/10)
Published on October 31, 2017
The UK boasts its fair lot of doom/sludge bands, even though most of them are of the gritty variety (Iron Monkey, Moss, Conan etc.) – but I find my home country is lacking in the more traditional epic doom department. In fact, the whole world could do with more Candlemass-inspired doom metal for all humanity to mourn over. Thank Messiah (you know which one I mean) for the Yorkshiremen of Monolith Cult, whose first album Run From The Light was a chunky slab of bass-heavy doom with decent variety and a real thick texture. But that was four whole years ago! So here in 2017, has much changed in the Monolith Cult camp as they prepare to unleash the sophomore Gospel Of Despair? Save for a new guitarist, things look to be business as usual this time round. That doesn’t mean it’s worth skipping, oh no…
The formula remains similar: huge hulking riffs, sorrowful melodies, crooning vocals, steady tempos and a melancholy atmosphere. However, there are some expansions in sound along the way. The production quality is noticeably much improved. The bass isn’t overpowering everything; the guitars are evenly balanced and veritably hefty; the drums crash around in the distance with plenty of reverb, and Bry’s vocals slide into the mix perfectly without confronting one’s ears. The harmonized guitars elevate each riff to top grade standard, and there are some choral vocals thrown in here and there for more tonal variety. The title-track shows off the best of their expansive melody writing skills; and also pushes the pace to meet the briskest of doom acts. This contrasts wonderfully with its follow-up “Kings Of All That’s Lost”, which absolutely crushes using ultra-slow chugs and a super-satisfying tempo change six and a half minutes in. That’s headbang heaven, my friends!
If there’s any fault to be pointed out, it’s that Gospel Of Despair is a tad monotone. Any decent Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus album will be riff-heavy, but laden with moments of clarity which provide respite from the maelstrom that surrounds. Brief interlude “Chothia In Memorium” makes an attempt at this, but even that remains distorted. A bit of clean picking or ‘bass only’ sections would’ve gone a long way. Bry’s vocals, whilst incredibly effective and stylistically appropriate, are consistently in his mid-range. I’d have loved to hear more lower tones or perhaps explore his falsetto at some point. Thankfully, he is emotive enough to back a punch behind the grievous lyrics – especially in “Complicit In Your Own Abuse”. This track also fills the bag o’ riffs up to the brim, going full-on Leif Edling at 4:10.
Gospel Of Despair is the ideal length for an epic doom LP, meaning each track is enough of a journey in itself without the entire affair overstaying its welcome. Between five and eight minutes lets each composition breathe enough whilst producing some stellar highlights. The 3:53 point in “Sympathy For The Living” is one of the best riffs of 2017, and utterly snaps my neck every time I hear it; the meaty pre-chorus in “Death Means Nothing” always gets my fist pumping; and I love that the very first thing on the album is a swinging groove like “Disconnection Syndrome”. Monolith Cult appear to be improving brick by brick as each album constructs the foundation to their sprawling sound. Gospel Of Despair is a seriously impressive chunk of melodic doom metal which should have all fans of the genre champing at the bit. And I, for one, can’t wait for the next one.