Monuments To Sorrow – Ground 00

It appears that the doom scene, despite its initial distaste towards black metal-style ‘trueness’, has adopted something of that concept itself. It appears that the near-universal response when a doom metal musician is asked the immortal question of whether such an ‘extreme’ genre could be popularized is a resounding no: the music is too heavy, too slow, too extreme to appeal to more than a handful of diehard followers. Of course, it seems that most of them ignore the fact that the same exact statements have been made for black and death metal before it, and now Cradle Of Filth and Behemoth have made such things available to a much wider audience. One doesn’t even have to go beyond the confines of doom to see examples of such things: witness Sunn O)))’s sudden thrust into mainstream hipster popularity with ‘Black One’, which had the dual effect of making drone trendy and elevating Wrest and Malefic to even more absurdly unnecessary heights.

No, I can’t really envision Monarch or Planet AIDS being on the top 40 within a couple years, but it’s not so much of a leap to see such bands as breaking into mainstream trends towards a perception of what is ‘extreme’ in music today. If a band such as Immortal has turned corpsepaint into a well-known image among even those who follow such music, what’s to say that ‘Stormcrowfleet’ might not one day be heralded by Pitchfork in due time? There’s nothing preventing such a concept from breaking out other than wishful thinking or intentionally limited runs. But the former does nothing, and the latter just turns the music into its own trendy commodity. Observe what happened to black metal when emphasis in limited runs turned from budget to, well, making limited runs: bands such as Drunemeton who simply make music to make more endless streams of tapes and CDrs. So while I’m not decrying doom’s attempt to stay somewhat secretive, I’d still say that making blanket statements as to its veracity as an entity of mainstream appeal is a rather absurd thing, particularly when hindsight is 20/20.

Perhaps the largest trend in doom now is that of extreme funeral doom. Since dear Wormphlegm released those hundred tapes a few years back, the transformation of funeral doom from a somber and somewhat romantic genre into a noisy and torturous one seems to be at this point a foregone conclusion. This past February the metal community witnessed another of this breed make its entry into this subcommunity; in this case, Monuments To Sorrow, a Houston-based one man band. Wormphlegm is, of course, an admitted influence, like essentially all the bands in this field, and it is reflected clearly in the music, with clearly a large note taken from that band’s demo. Similarly composed of one very large track, ‘Ground 00’ is, like the Wormphlegm demo, a mixture of funeral doom with a bit of dark ambient, with a similarly extreme vocal performance and crawling, punishing instruments. The EP is sonically fine, except for the guitar tone, which has a bit of what I call a ‘phase shifting’ property (where the notes seem not to be struck, but merely ‘phase’ into existence; a good example is the guitar tone on Type O Negative’s ‘World Coming Down’ LP) which doesn’t lend itself to this breed of music.

Unlike Wormphlegm, however, one of the central elements that differentiates Monuments To Sorrow from the mass of bands doing exactly the same style is the use of beautifully melodic passages very similar to that of Belarusian funeral doom band Reido. Periodically, a melodic lead will break through the dirge-like atmosphere of the majority of ‘Ground 00’ to provide an exquisite contrast to the crushing, tortuous mass that makes up most of the music. These sections are some of the best on the EP, reflecting the dichotomy presented in the lyrics perfectly. The ‘heavy’ sections, while not bad, feel rather derivative and stale when compared to the melodic sections which drive home the atmosphere and emotions of the piece. However, the best part, surprisingly enough, comes at the end, where the main doom section ceases and for the final six minutes there’s is only lone clean guitar over a protracted audio sample, which is by far the most harrowing and difficult to listen to portion of ‘Ground 00’

Monuments To Sorrow has made a respectable stab at the extreme doom community with ‘Ground 00’. While all the kinks haven’t quite been worked out yet, I have no doubt that if this project brings out its unique qualities, it could become a major player in doom metal. Definitely worth a look.

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~ by noktorn on March 22, 2007.

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