In four short years over the course of two albums, Sweden’s Monolord have gathered a pretty respectable following in the stoner and doom circles, a scene in which it can be very hard to stand out from the crowd. It’s not so much a case of them offering something totally different, unique and one-of-a-kind, but more that they’re simply really damn good at what they do. As part of their first UK shows since an impressive showing on the main stage of Desertfest just over a year ago, Monolord descend on Manchester’s Star and Garter.
Opening act Pist unfortunately fail to inspire, their sludgy stoner metal mostly competent but totally generic. There’s a sense of watching a underdeveloped and unremarkable garage band as opposed to the genuine article, especially in the awkward, often slurred stage patter, and their set gets old far before it’s over. Luckily Monolord are possessing of all of the menace, rumble and thunder needed to elevate the evening into something significantly more memorable. Kicking off with the unrelenting death march of Icon, Monolord’s modus operandi is clearly laid out from the start.
It’d be easy to generalise Monolord as yet another stoner doom band and at least in terms of genre you’d be right, but there’s something very clear that elevates Monolord above many of their peers; where so many of those bands are lethargic, Monolord are absolutely a destructive force. Like Electric Wizard before them, Monolord avoid listlessness and jump straight into the apocalyptic. They don’t so much cause your head to nod than they do yank your skull from your shoulders and crumble it into dust. Their riffs are insistent, and with a guitar and bass tone so ungodly heavy to run them through the shocking weight and power is undeniable. In the slim confines of the Star and Garter, amps of that size cause the whole room to rumble and shake, seats at the sides threatening to tear loose and collapse. All three men meanwhile simply brutalise their instruments, guitarist Thomas Jäger a writhing mess of hair over his strings while bassist Mika Häkki refuses to stand still, riding the colossal power he’s dealing into the room.
While the most instantly apparent thing though is the sheer heaviness and sonic pressure of the set, what keeps it consistently interesting is the quality of the songs. Monolord songs are hypnotic without that simply being a synonym for “uneventful”. We Will Burn and Audhumbla showcase their ability to write hooks and parts that cling to your brain like glue, the latter’s main riff dancing up and down the fretboard in a creative manner where so many bands would be content to stick to the core few notes. The pinnacle of this comes in set closer Empress Rising. The title track of their first record, it’s become the signature weapon in their arsenal, Jäger’s wailing refrain and a colossal final crashing assault providing a certified slam dunk for an ending. Scattered throughout the night, new songs from their upcoming release fit in seamlessly too and give plenty of reason to be interested in Monolord’s future. Right now they’re simply one of doom’s most mammoth outfits.