I’ve been sat on this review for ages for various reasons (mainly time related) for which I’d like to apologise to the guys in Monolith Cult. A quick check will show that this is the first review I’ve written for weeks, and I’m glad I’m finally getting the time to draft it.
I’ll keep things short and succinct. Where Monolith Cult have previously been justly lumped into the doom chapter of the “Big Book of Generically Labelling Bands”, with the release of Gospel of Despair, they’ve spread themselves wide open to many other influences. Imagine Black Sabbath’s downturned view on society meeting Iron Maiden’s classic grandeur and pomp, and you’re about there.
Borrowing as much from NWOBHM influences as the more downbeat doom bands, Monolith Cult have an immensely heavy yet accessible album on their hands. Given that it was produced by by Chris Fielding of Conan it’s no surprise that the lower tones are very much present, but they’re counterbalanced by singer Bryan Outlaw who comes very much from the Bruce Dickinson school of vocals.
Where things do definitely have a doom influence is with the track lengths. There may be only seven songs on here, but they tip the scales at over 42 minutes in length overall. Given that one of them, “Chothia in Memorium” is a 46-second instrumental lead into “Sympathy for the Living” it further emphasises the epic scale of the majority of the tracks. Importantly, though, not a single song drags or feels overlong. There’s little repetition, and there are plenty of hooks and quirks within each number to keep you listening throughout.
The addition of a second guitarist to the line-up which recorded Run From The Light also makes a huge difference to the depth of the sound. Welcome Wayne Hustler who joins founder Lee Baines on six-string duties. Solstice bassist Izak Buxton is still present on those groovy bassline, but drums on the album were recorded by stand-in Dan Mullins. Original drummer Damo Clarke was sadly out of action during recording, but is now back with the band and I’m sure will be well up to the task of battering out these rhythms live.
As a five-piece, Monolith Cult have gone from strength to more strength. I’m hard pushed to pick out highlights on the album, but if pressed (and after many listens), I’d go for “Complicit In Your Own Abuse”. It’s one track which really maintains the more down-tuned sound, but with some great, simple, chuggy riffs. The twin guitars really work well here, too, tonally similar but broadening the sound beautifully.
Gospel of Despair is definitely worth checking out by anyone who reckons their tastes include “metal”. The one thing it isn’t is fast, but it was never going to be. It makes up for that with sheer heaviness, a cheeky side-serving of groove and a tureen filled to the brim with epic-ness just off to the side.
Gospel of Despair is out now through Transcending Records