Monolithe - Nebula Septem - (9/10)
Published on January 28, 2018
Album number seven. Performed by seven musicians. Seven tracks. Each track exactly seven minutes long. I hope I’m not the only one sensing a theme here. Nebula Septem is the seventh full length album from the long running French funeral doom metal project Monolithe. The band covered the origins of mankind on their initial run of self-titled, roman numeralized albums Monolithe I though Monolithe IV, all of which were comprised of single, fifty-minute plus tracks. Rumor had it that the band was going to call it quits after they unleashed number four, but they soldiered on, releasing two spacey chunks of heavy music in the form of Epsilon Aurigae and Zeta Reticuli, both of which saw the band’s fifty minute formula shortened to three fifteen minute tracks.
While fifteen minute tracks might seem much more immediately accessible than a fifty minute opus, Nebula Septem takes things a step further with it’s seven by seven formula. The band’s last two albums finally saw the band diversifying things a bit, toying more with keyboards and moving further away from their dirge-laden adherence to funeral doom tropes in favor of a progressively leaning doom/death sound; something that is continued with this album. The band hasn’t strayed very far from the sound they’ve pushed since the beginning of their career, thundering, riff-centric doom metal that slowly devours all in its wake, it’s just that it’s delivered in a much more concise and direct manner. The opener, “Anechoic Aberration”, slowly steamrolls through with thick, dense riffing and a pulsing bass presence, yet the melodic flowing guitar leads have a life of their own. Tracks like like “Delta Scuti” showcase the band’s new reliance on keyboard passages, as the entire song is backed by wispy melodies juxtaposed with discordant notes and spacey reaching while “Engineering the Rip” showcases a more laid back, cruising the void type of vibe with eerie tendrils of sound hanging in the mist.
This album marks the debut from new vocalist/guitarist, Rémi Brochard, whose deep growls mesh nicely with the band’s subterranean crawling meets alien progginess, sounding a little more gnarled and less cavernous than most funeral doom vocalists. Though the band continues in the same vein as previous efforts, Nebula Septem does come across as the most immediately accessible work in Monolithe’s catalog: it’s not just the shorter song structures. Take the closing track with it’s electronica backbeat that builds into sweeping guitar melodies and trudging rhythms, for example. This band is just on top of the songwriting game, and the warm guitar tone alongside a thick, yet organic production job just seals the deal.
To further the band’s obsession with the number seven on this album, the tonality of each song is one of the seven notes of the western scale (A through G), which is also the starting letter of each track title (in order, of course). Thankfully, the band put just as much effort into the music as they did into the concept. This is certainly Monotlithe’s strongest material since their massive Monolithe III in 2012. It’s diverse, often otherworldly, yet it delivers a towering slab of slow moving, progressively tinged doom metal. Hands down, Nebula Septem shows a band on top of their game.