Both Monuments Collapse from San Francisco and Bréag Naofa, hailing from Seattle, are doing a supreme job of flying the flag of dark epic hardcore and atmospheric post metal on the West Coast, and their pairing for a split LP is an appropriate one if anything.
The bands make up two utterly hefty sides to this LP released by Halo of Flies and Shove. Last year, Monuments Collapse released their ambitious self-titled album as an introduction. It plucked from the Fall of Efrafa and Snowblood school of thought, with healthy doses of doom and post rock melodies topped off with a hardcore underbelly. It was solid and impressive, but still a little green. If anything, it was like a band clearing their throats to say something more profound.
What immediately jumps out about Monuments Collapse’ three new tracks here is the length. Where the LP was a mere two tracks, both clocking in at between 15 to 20 minutes, these shorter dirges (two, six and 10 minutes respectively) exhibit the band at their most visceral, shoehorning in more aggression and verve, much like a cornered animal.
A brief intro track sets the tone straight away, but immediately erupts in a fevered frenzy with ‘Starvation,’ that meshes Amber’s emotional might with the bloodthirsty aggression of Cult of Luna’s self-titled. It makes for a heady brew, while ‘Pathos’ truly lays down the gauntlet, swaying between dense flurries of catastrophic riffs and gorgeous ambient passages all the while the vocals lurch forth with a raspy howl that’s rife with bitter but honest emotion.
Seattle’s Bréag Naofa certainly share a sonic kinship with Monuments Collapse, with towering walls of guitars meshed with vibrant melodies and dense atmosphere. Their two offerings ‘VII’ and ‘VIII’ are massive slabs of melodic post metal and pick up the baton from where last year’s self-titled left it.
The 14-minute ‘VII’ (available to stream above) kicks off in dramatic fashion with meandering lead guitars giving way to a lush The Ocean-esque sequence of riffs before descending into doom-laden territory with bellowing vocals.
The band occupy a similar vein to Light Bearer and Mouth of the Architect, with a penchant for crafting grandiose and spiraling compositions that are all about the epic journey and stunning crescendo and release. ‘VIII’ is a perfect example where a seething doom-like intro gives way to moody tremolo guitars, a dreary tone altogether exacerbated by the wretched vocals.
It’s when Bréag Naofa begin peeling away more layers that we learn so much more about them, and particularly their affinity for melody; harnessing light and dark shades. This manifests itself around the midway mark of ‘VIII’, where a meandering serene passage begins bustling with tribal drums and swelling intensity that erupts with vibrant guitars into an invigorating close. Bréag Naofa are a band that have laid out their cards quite well here with this side of the split but they work best with the room and freedom that an LP provides.
This is one of the 2013’s better split records, capturing where the two bands are at right now in their lives, but also allowing for a fitting collaboration that actually makes sense from an aesthetic point of view. We eagerly await new albums from each.