Monuments Collapse / Bréag Naofa – Split LP (Halo of Flies / Shove Records, 17 December 2013)
Good afternoon. On one hand, I’m pleased to note that this week is about halfway over. And on the other hand, it feels as though three or four weeks should have passed since Monday. I am so ready to be done working. I feel like if I don’t find something else to focus my attention and energy on for a little while, I’m seriously going to lose my shit here. And honestly, I don’t know if there’s anything that would fit the bill better than blasting some music through my headphones to drown out everything else (both externally and internally). I think it’s about time to take another dip into the pool of my favorite releases from last year.
You’ll want to pay attention to this — because what I’ve got for you today is the sort of release that too-often gets lost in the shuffle: a split record put out by a not-exactly-huge label (Wisconsin’s Halo of Flies for worldwide distribution, and Italian Shove Records in Europe), involving two not-that-widely-known bands (Monuments Collapse from San Francisco and Bréag Naofa from Seattle) who each had previously put out a self-titled album (each of which had a limited release of a few hundred copies, through smaller independent labels); and to make matters worse it was released in late December when most music publications and websites have already wrapped up their coverage for the year, compiled their year-end lists, and have already started looking ahead to the upcoming spring releases.
But I always try to be on the lookout for gems like this that might otherwise have fallen through the cracks, and then we pass the savings on to you. Or however that saying goes. Anyway, stay tuned for some great post-apocalyptic post-sludge-doom from a pair of west-coast bands you’ll likely want to get better acquainted with.
The first side contains nearly twenty minutes of music (consisting of two songs plus a two-minute introduction) by Monuments Collapse, whose name aptly conjures an image of what the band sounds like: a gloomy, unhospitable atmosphere in which once-grand structures could fall victim to ages of neglect and decay. Following the spacey post-rock introduction, “Starvation” is very bass-heavy and oppressive, drenched in reverb to sound impossibly large, but with hoarse shrieking and shouting emerging from somewhere buried deep inside the thick layers of noise. The somewhat longer “Pathos” is a bit more complex, adding small bits and pieces at a time until you end up enveloped in a comforting blanket of peaceful sounds, lulling you into a sense of complacency — even when the distortion kicks in and more of those painful vocals enter (about four minutes in) — until the song has built itself up to a point of huge monolithic bassy sludgy riffs that feel like you’re slowly being buried alive.
Side B includes two songs that span nearly twenty-six minutes in length (plus if you buy the digital version you’re treated to a third bonus track). Like their splitmates, Bréag Naofa (an Irish expression which translates to “holy lie”) deal in post-sludge-oriented oppressive heaviness. The first track, simply titled “VII,” features rising and falling quasi-melodic lines, which are saturated in melancholy and mournful sensations, as well as that characteristically post-black-metal guitar style that resembles the rolling picking of a mandolin. After five minutes or so, the vocals — a deep, commanding growl — heighten the feeling of oppressiveness, but then the second half of the song is broken down into a variety of layers that come and go with a steadily building of complexity and intensity. This is followed by “VIII” which opens even more minimally — but thick with gloomy atmosphere and a sense of foreboding, which increases significantly as layer upon heavy layer is piled up on the foundation.
From beginning to end, this split record will take you on a treacherous journey with lots of twists and bumps along the way — sometimes hideous and frightening, other times beautiful and almost angelic, but always stunning. Both sides of this release can be streamed and/or downloaded using each band’s Bandcamp page (both widgets are embedded below), and the 12″ vinyl is available here.
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