Monolord at Star & Garter, ManchesterSupport: Pist
May 24, 2017 at Star & Garter, Manchester
Promoter: CMH LIve
This gig, took place just a few days after the tragic terrorist attack in Manchester, just half a mile or so away. Looking back a few weeks later, after the big benefit concert the and the general feeling of the ‘spirit’ of Manchester it feels different but at the time a lot of people, me included weren’t keen on heading back into the city. Many people had said, no, you just carry on your normal life and do what you do. So, what I needed was a huge slab of fuzzy doom to make me feel better. Friends, and fellow Echooes and Dust comrades Ed and Gav had put me onto Monolord, after seeing them play a stunning set in Leeds last year. Although I had listened to Vaenir and Empress Rising I wasn’t sure how they would transfer to a live setting, the band only being a three piece and the recorded material being thick, dense and fuzzy.
When I arrived, my gig buddy Gav was chatting away to a mild-mannered Swedish lad who forgetting Gav doesn’t drink offered me a nice cold beer he’d just bought. This chap, after having a discreet enquiry turned out to be Mika (Häkki, bass) from Monolord. It turns out that Gav described Empress Rising as a ‘life changing musical experience’ and had been messaging the band on and off, developed a bit of a friendship and Mika had come down for a beer and a chat. I don’t know what I expect really, but it always impressed about how chill and friendly most of the musicians in these type of bands are. Mika appeared happy and looking forward to play a show, mainly for the love of what they do, rather than the glamour or adulation.
After being let down at the last minute, the only opening band was local lads Pist who played their brand of good, old fashioned, noisy raucous rock. The vocalist, sounding at times link Phil Anselmo and the guitarist had a bit of Zakk Wiyde feel to his playing. After a few tracks the singer seemed to lose his voice somewhat. Unfortunate but it didn’t deter the band who got into their groove and played a pretty good set. Maybe not my favourite genre of metal but nonetheless a band who I imagine would be good in the right venue with a appreciative crowd.
After a bit of a break, no road crew here, the upstairs of the Star and Garter had a feeling of expectancy. Monolord being on the last gig of their current tour ahead of a new album release. Opening the set was ‘Icon’ from the aforementioned Empress Rising a slow meandering, darkly heavy and unrelenting riff, Jäger’s vocals are ethereal with a liberal use of echo. The look on my face as they started, apparently, was a pretty much, whoah, shit!! The song is sparse in places, at times just bass and drums. The bass, seems to hover just above human audible range, in fact you can almost feel it. Guitar is absolutely drenched in fuzz. Jäger uses it well, his stripped out flying V, well equipped pedal board and big Orange stack chucks out epic power levels. In a live setting some of the subtlety of his playing is apparent, now this may sound like an oxymoron but controlling a rig this powerful does take some skill. Feedback and general noise is used with good control and effect.
‘We Will Burn’ has another characteristically huge riff, interspersed with instrument sections and a guitar solo (or in doom circles what might be considerd a solo). Drums have some flurries of powerful fills but generally provide some solidity behind the onslaught of fuzz. Vocalist/guitarist Jäger is constantly making small tweaks to his instrument and switching effect, using a variety of sounds during the track. Häkki, playing, what must be a huge bass (he is a tall bloke and it still looks huge) low slung with barely enough room for him on the tiny stage. The bass, like the drums mostly provides some solidity but also have flourishes at times. Monolord are very far from a one-dimensional sludge/doom band. With very little let up from the previous track, the distinct riff from another track from Empress Rising, ‘Audhumbla’ pretty much slapped us all in the face. The track, instrumental,is about five solid minutes of riff, pausing to just bass and drums before being rejoined, in a screech of feedback by the guitar. This, to me, is Monolord at their very best, mid-set, warm and in their groove. Looking around the room in the tiny venue and everyone is caught up and being carried along with the band
Some new tracks were also played. ‘Where Death Meets The Sea’ and ‘Rust’ maybe hint to the direction the band maybe be taking on the next album. The core of the Monolord sound is there, but the vocals have a slightly different feel to them and there is a bit more of a psych sound and a touch more melody. A good example is ‘Lord Of Suffering’. Has familiar sounding riff and some interesting and creative guitar. The other thing is these guys jam really well, the connection amongst members almost telepathic. Ending the set was the stunning ‘Empress Rising’. The track has a slow groove and a mesmeric feel and many times just falls back to the opening riff. Jager screaming “Empress Rising” after a short break in the feedback sent a collective shiver through the crowd. An amazing end to a storming set.
Referring to my earlier comment, the issue with Monolord is that although the albums are very well produced the medium cannot capture what they can do live. It helps being in a tiny venue but I’m sure, that the whole place was vibrating. I’m sure that it has something to do with either the raw power they produce or deep, low register in which they play but you could ‘feel’ it. The sound is probably better measure using the Richter scale than decibels. It’s a good job the Victorians in Manchester made good solid pubs, a lesser building might have shown a few cracks.
I would urge anyone, either doom/sludge aficionados to anyone who likes music on the heavier edge to go and see Monolord live, a band who evidently thoroughly enjoy what they are doing, are expert musicians and fine purveyors of deep, filthy, heavy as hell doom and more fuzz than anyone could possibly want.