Black Monolith opens like the gates of Hell. On this, their first proper release, this Oakland, CA outfit bludgeons the listener over the head following the snarling, death-like silence of the intro. “Void” opens with all the lo-fi fury it can muster, with screams snapping behind a wall of haze. Riffs swoop and explode like missiles over a war zone, while the snare breathes on lungs of unrepentant gunfire. The black swirls into a mosh as the drums splash drops of twilight amid the crooning and mourning of the guitars. The static rises ascendant before fading into a dull roar that extends its “Dead Hand.” A track carried over from their demo, “Dead Hand” yields little of the beauty of “Void,” replacing it instead with unbridled D-beat fury. The riffs and beats engage in an intricate and violent dance as the vocals rise from seemingly unspeakable places. The moods shifts seamlessly into a blackened climax, with chords that tear into the song like a thousand predators, rending it from neck to naval.
“Adhere” begins on an airy riff, before racing along a pummeling stormfront, a viciously expedient ballistic that captures all the crimson-rainbow shades from beauty to brutality. Within its eight minute span, “Adhere” philanders with black metal’s tried and true melodies and the throat-punching aesthetics of its more punk roots, blending them into a mangled, yet complete, creation. “Victims and Hangmen” is a hellion of an anthem, filled from fang to fang with crushing circle pits, flaring solos and a spiraling mood.
“Gold Watch,” for its first two minutes or so, comes off like a sample ripped from a David Lynch film, conjuring an atmosphere bereft of warmth, full of loathing while reeking of an impending doom. The snare heralds this doom, banging like hail falling on a tin roof, the chords chiming in with immediacy while not immediately, building to a point where the energy crashes like a wave crest caught in dazzling moonlight. The fury churns like a maelstrom, sucking the listener into a deepening sorrow, clinging on shrieks that in turn are grasping at slivers of joy. “Gold Watch” leaves again on stilted silence, the snare against a fluff of haze that marches into a blind horizon. “Eris” is a work of pure mood, a creature of longing desperation that is both wordless and rage-weary, this is nothing short of magnificence. “Eris” paints a wasteland hued with sunset pinks and stained by mascara blacks, running together on the same palette. Throughout its expanse, it never dulls, only enlightened as the guitars split the moaning sky open in the song’s final minutes, radiating the wasteland with spring rains. “Eris” ends Passenger on a seemingly positive note, the adversary point on the scale from “Void,” threading the listener through multiple spectrum. While the journey is not full circle, it will leave you exhausted and desiring more in the end.
Passenger is the inaugural release from All Black Recordings Company, run by Deafheaven alum Derek Prine and frontman George Clarke. Available since April, Black Monolith’s full-length debut is shaping itself to be one of 2014’s most solid releases and hands down among the best debuts ever. The record can be listened to and purchased in digital format here and on black vinyl here. Support.