Doomthousandtwenty: The Valentine’s Day Edition
On this dreary February day, we shall not find joy in the small things that make life worth
living sleepwalking through. On this dreary February day, we shall have Godthrymm, Monolithe, Kirk Windstein and Concilium.
Here we have a Bostonian doom metal band with sprawling songs, sporting something of a Candlemass influence, but much darker and more introspective. Vocalist Paris Thibault’s deep bellows will likely take some getting used to as she draws out the syllables, supplying rough melodies. “No Sanctuary” and “Red Sun, Red Moon” are slow, heavy and dark riff giants, the latter of which finds Thibault in the middle of her best performance on the EP by far, but otherwise finds the band trudging through their most single-faceted composition which provides Concilium all the excuses they need to flex their riff-muscles as hard as they can. But it’s “Halocline’s” ominous bass intro, and the build-up that continues beneath the guitars throughout the song, courtesy of maudlin of the Well/Kayo Dot-man Greg Massi, that’s responsible for the finest moment on the record.
The title track closes on an acoustic note revisited on the interlude-like “Ritual Attrition.” It definitely doesn’t warrant its length, especially given how dynamic Concilium knows how to make their songs and how much calmer ambiance they’re injected with, supplying a supposedly narrow approach with great vibrancy. A very promising beginning for a band that will hopefully grow into the frame they seek.
3.5/5 Flaming toilets ov Hell
Having ended his lengthy stint in My Dying Bride due to “irreconcilable differences” and sensing the end was nigh for Vallenfyre, Hamish Glencross worked to re-unite with his former MDB companion and Anathema drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels to form Godthrymm. Originally recruiting Lee Netherwood, with whom both of the men had played at separate occasions in the cult-legend Solstice, they released A Grand Reclamation just short of two years ago and after several line-up shuffles and an additional studio-live EP, their debut full-length, Reflections, is ready to see the light of day.
Recorded as a two-piece, Reflections is the epitome of British doom. Here and there one may find hints of each of the bands the twosome have spent time in, and the thick, cleaner rhythm tone, which rings akin to a morose stoner band, coupled with the right melody causes flashbacks to Pallbearer (who are not British, I know). Most of all, the reflections are of Paradise Lost. Glencross channels Mackintosh’s lead tone circa 1991 and whenever his vocals begin to convey anguish, which is often, he not only sounds like Nick Holmes, but also borrows his pacing; “Among The Exalted” goes far enough even to be a pastiche.
Glencross doesn’t limit himself to one style though—he often employs a thicker style, sounding more passive and dejected than truly anguished, while “We Are The Dead” finds him utilizing both more aggressive, gruff tones and a layered bull choir effect, whereas “The Grand Reclamation” finds him at his most Lowe-esque, sporting more power, higher up on his range than elsewhere. Glencross doesn’t have a strong identity of his own as a vocalist yet, and that could be further developed in the future, but he’s consistently more than passable, never a hindrance and serves the material well. Not to mention how appropriate it is that a band whose identity seems to be built around replicating the British doom scene on a larger scale, has a versatile vocalist capable of several styles, each borrowed.
Godthrymm comes with a seasoning of their own, and granted that no one is doing a tribute this heartfelt this well on a scale as large as Reflections, finding their own place on the map should prove no problem for the trio now rounded out by Bob Crolla. Not if they can keep up the excellence.
4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Kirk Windstein – Dream In Motion
Active since the late eighties, Kirk Windstein has recorded twenty or so records as a member of his various outfits, but Dream In Motion is only his first as a solo artist. Any fan of his large body of work would be right at home instantly as the first notes of the opening title track’s sludge-oozing groove hit, so much in fact, that doubts of whether a solo effort was warranted or not are quick to rear their head. Sticking to his melancholic clean singing on a song moved by a riff as heavy as this could be seen as something of a left-of-field choice and the first hint of what’s to come.
Exclusively sung in said fashion, Dream In Motion does revisit Windstein’s trademark riffing on several occasions, but it’s a reflective record that spends much of its time wafting through soft psychedelia. The album makes the most of his underappreciated ability to channel emotion and soul beyond the confines of his narrow range, through his voice. The first half gently eases anyone expecting a full-on riff-fest into the dreamier depths it’s most interested in exploring, carefully stripping the layers of fuzz away until the ballad “Enemy In Disguise” features Kirk more vulnerable than he’s ever allowed himself to be caught on tape. Defying all reason and logic, Windstein finds thus far undiscovered shades in his voice and proves how well his template can be adjusted to a mellower sound when adjusted by the right persons, while exploring and refining his melodic sensibility which has never before flourished like this. And the portrait of the man himself, which adorns Dream In Motion’s cover is the most beautiful piece of art that’s ever bedecked his work.
But it is a template Mr. Windstein is working with. Consistent as it may be, the straightforward songwriting does not allow for much thematic deviation, highlighted by the contrast against his best known albums. The heavier sections provide DIM with variety and much needed torrents of ardour, but steer too close to what he’s best known for to escape the shadow of Crowbar. And while an artist as merited as Windstein has certainly earned the right to sound like himself, it lessens the impact of Dream In Motion. There’s a creeping feeling that this is, in fact, a Crowbar album in disguise. While sonically, songs like “The World You Know” may be exploring vastly different worlds from “The Cemetery Angels”, it sounds like it was written for the aforementioned band, then re-arranged to fit Windstein’s new vision. Where Crowbar would play a soul-crushingly heavy riff, solo Windstein soul-wrenchingly contemplates. Where Crowbar would unleash all their fury while leaning into their hardcore side, solo Windstein ups the ante with a doomy rocker. Where Crowbar would elevate the sonic weight to an unforeseen level on a breakdown, solo Windstein will do the same with emotional weight. You get the point; despite not sounding like Crowbar at all, it sounds exactly like Crowbar.
All complaints aside, Dream In Motion is a good record, and it does find Windstein exploring quite a bit of new territory and I most certainly wouldn’t mind him exploring the now uncovered ground further in the future, in the process leaving the last of his chains behind.
3,5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
A long road stood between Monolithe I and Nebula Septem, the French Monolithe‘s, as many you no doubt guessed, seventh album. It’s a conceptual record consisting of 7 songs, played by 7 men, each in the tonality of one of the 7 notes in the western scale, and with a run-time of 7 minutes. Naturally, its follow-up is called Okta Khora, and represents another overarching concept that extends beyond the compositions and lyrical themes. On the surface it’s represented by 8 songs, each 8 minutes in length, if we count the instrumentals divided into two tracks as one each. The lyrical concept of the record revolves around an extraterrestrial civilization convinced they have to bring the universe back to its primordial chaos, currently engaging on what they believe to be their “eighth crusade” to realize their goal, while drawing parallels to real world events, the consequences of which we are currently experiencing. In Greek language, this concept of the primordial/original chaos is known as Khora.*
Based on the dark and heavy doom from which once they carved several album-length songs, Monolithe resides on the slower-streaming banks of the river Tempo, though no more frequenting the glacial pace. The melancholic guitar leads form the nervous system along the spine of Thibault Faucher’s drumming, but the keys occasionally wrestle for dominance, though triumphing less often than on Nebula Septem, thus achieving a fairer balance. The two vocalists, Sébastien Pierre and Rémi Brochard, inject a good amount of variety into their performances and the 8 guests bring further colour to the table with performances on, including, but not limited to, flutes, saxophone, cello and vocals.
Some of the band’s former tonal heaviness has given way to subtle, emotional heaviness. The theme and interpretations are now responsible for much of the record’s weight, as opposed to bludgeoning the listener over the head like Monolithe’s numerical releases had a way of doing. The progressive rock undertones have become increasingly prominent, while most of the gothic moodiness has been done away with. Sudden tempo changes, appearance of guests, and for the most part, lack of traditional song structures as well Olivier Defives’ melodic bass playing underline the obvious influences, but Monolithe interprets each through what has become a unique sound.
The two sets of keyboards and three guitars enable massive layering that I feel isn’t being taken full advance of. Often one or two of them grows quiet in moments where the band seems less focused on the forward growth of their songs, and more on the expansion of their girth. Moments that could only benefit from bigger arrangements. Likewise, the selcouth lines which Okta Khora’s structure follows don’t always make for the most engaging songs. On the other hand, this allows individual segments to shine from within one song, or occasionally for several segments to form individual movements inside the compositions. Thanks to each song directly seguing into the next (both musically and thematically) and revisiting their beginnings, they don’t feel as much like individual songs as they do movements within a larger work. This movements-within-movements approach makes for more engaging segments; the wild saxophone of “Ignite the Heavens (Part 1)” and The Monolith Deathcult-inspired martial vocals towards the end of “Dissonant Occurrence”, make for engaging songs.
Despite seguing directly into the next song, nowhere is this done seamlessly**, and the lack of an actual loop tying the last notes to the first causes the cyclical nature of the concept to suffer. For the most part, Okta Khora is a very solid and conceptually sound record. Though I came to submit Nebula Septem for a spot on my 2018 EOTY list, I have barely returned to it ever since. And while this is not all on Monolithe as less than a handful of records (3) have made it into regular rotation from that year, and it is the same on most others as well, I cannot help but keep my initial excitement for Okta Khora’s predecessor, and the following indifference, in mind. Monolithe’s eighth was tremendous fun to dig into, it brought great pleasure to me to try and uncover the secrets of its concept and all the different ways the music and the lyrics tied together, but it is not a record that is tremendous fun to listen to, not even in the way such a borderline depressive record can be. There is no doubt in my mind that years will be kinder to it than they were to its predecessor, nor that there is yet much to uncover. But no matter how greatly I desire to award it with a higher score, in light of the present, disregarding hopes of the future, I can not give it more than
3.25/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
*If you want to get deeper into the album’s concept and how it interacts with the compositions, you may want to check out this 9-part series, where the band discusses Okta Khora in general, and song-by-song.
**For whatever reason, the streaming versions of this album have additionally been edited to include a few extra seconds in each song, further separating the tracks apart.