[22 April 2013]
01. As Above
02. Bloody Vultures
03. Ghost Promenade
05. Haven, Beneath Weeping Willows
06. Fallen Leaves
07. Crooked Path: The Strangers Ritual
08. Lichtenberg Figures
09. Bleak Vanity
10. Palisades Of Fire
11. So Below (Before We Disappear)
For as long as I can remember, if you asked a European to name an Australian metal band, nine out of ten would have said AC/DC. The remaining one might have referenced The Bezerker, just to be clever. But it seems that nowadays more and more Aussie bands are making a more global name for themselves such as Karnivool, Circles and Twelve Foot Ninja whom all spring instantly to mind. Adding yet more diversity to the list is Lo!, delivering their fearsome sophomore effort Monstrorum Historia.
In a faint call-back to the theme of last week, Monstrorum Historia has been released through Robin Staps’ Pelagic Records. And, to declare a personal interest, I buy pretty much everything released by a quartet of independent labels, and Pelagic is one of them.
So it is through this policy that I came across the band and their abrasive, uptempo mixture of metal, hardcore and sludge (sludgecore, maybe?) via their debut album Look and Behold. I had them marked down mentally as ‘promising, ones to watch’. So I am pleased to report that Monstrorum Historia goes some way towards delivering on that promise.
The band’s sound has definitely been refined, and seems to be played with more confidence this time around. The songs sound like a hybrid of Will Haven, Old Man Gloom, Aeolian era The Ocean and a dash or two of early earthtone9, which you know I’m a fan of by now. (Read my review of earthtone9′s new album here.)
Imposing vocalist Jamie-Leigh Smith probably wins the ‘most improved’ prize. His fearsome bellowing is now a match for his stage presence, as witnessed firsthand at their debut UK show, where they were due to support The Ocean. But with the headliners missing their connecting ferry by literally minutes, the band played a commanding main support to Bossk instead. Which is no mean feat in itself.
With 11 songs, including the almost obligatory instrumental introduction, in a shade over 40 minutes, it doesn’t hang about. Pacey choppiness mixes with slower, properly sludgy moments – and in “Fallen Leaves” they combine the two, slowing the main riff right down with devastatingly heavy results.
Unusually, it feels like the strongest tracks on the album are clustered towards the end, with “Palisades Of Fire” being a particular stand-out.
The Ocean’s Loic Rossetti even pops up for some cameo screaming on the truly colossal closing track “So Below (Before We Disappear)”, which includes one of the finest sections of rolling chug I’ve heard in quite some time.
So far, so good. But, whilst Monstrorum Historia is a good album, something almost intangible holds it back from being a truly great one. I’ve spent days trying to put my finger on what it is, and the best answer I can come up with is that the hooks and riffs don’t quite add up into great songs. Even after multiple listens, the songs didn’t have quite enough identity for the track-listing to wedge in my mind.
But, that being said, the mixture of sludgy groove and hardcore energy is refreshing, and fans of either style are likely to have an enjoyable listen. And if the band can put in the same level of progression for album number three as they have between this and Look And Behold, then that will be something quite special indeed.