Discussing the new Behold! The Monolith Record is difficult to do without acknowledging the difficult circumstances surrounding it. In June 2013, the band lost their vocalist/bassist Kevin McDade after he tragically died in a car accident. However, instead of folding, the remaining members (guitarist Mat Price and drummer Chase Manhattan) chose to soldier on with the band, recruiting bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova, and vocalist Jordan Nalley. Together this new quartet have created one of 2015’s biggest and best records yet.
There is a lot going on within the song structures of Architects of the Void. Yes, Architects of the Void is a sludge metal album and sounds like it, but simply calling it “sludge metal” sells the album short. Behold! The Monolith packs each track with layers and subtleties that elevate Architects of the Void above simply being yet another sludge metal record. Genres like funeral doom, stoner metal, thrash, hardcore, and even black metal are evident in the sound of this new Behold! The Monolith incarnation, and that mish-mosh of stylistic influences allows the music to slip the jaws of any one genre. The entire package is reminiscent of the highest points of early Mastodon but far meatier, with epic, adventurous riffs that surpass the ‘don in heaviness.
What’s most impressive about the songwriting on Architects of the Void is just how deftly the band can switch between styles, tempos, and emotions. Album opener “Umbral Vale” sets the same kind of melancholic tone that Pallbearer reside in, yet by the time the music transitions into “Philosopher’s Blade” comparisons could be made to funeral doom acts such as Ahab or the thrash inspired sludge of High on Fire at various points. Despite those parallels, Behold! The Monolith create music that has a distinct personality — one that will likely go on to define the band. The final two tracks are perfect examples. “Between the Oder and Vistula” is a bludgeoning beast of a song that opens with discordant, blackened riffs and shrieked vocals, but somehow seamlessly morphs into a melodic whirlwind or driving grooves. Closing out the album are the layered, harmonized vocals of title track “Architects of the Void,” which lift the mood of the song, only to have it all come crashing down in a torrent of fuzz and feedback where it wallows in a Neurosis-like dirge, until finally it breaks into powerful anthemic riffs.
It must be mentioned that the inclusion of Jordan Nalley and Jason “Cas” Casanova complement the core of Behold! The Monolith created by Matt price and Jordan Nalley. Nalley in particular delivers an inspired performance. he is able to mold his vocal styles to fit the mood and style of the music. Blackened shrieks, hardcore shouts, beefy growls — the dude can do it all. The instrumentation is on point as well, and even though Architects of the Void favors a fuzzed out production, everything fits together snugly. The vocals sit behind the wall of massive guitar and bass riffing, yet are still audible, and the drums feel appropriately punchy and dirty. Everything is caked in a miasma of sludge, yet the technical prowess of the band comes through loud and clear.
Never does Architects feel bloated or disjointed during its 50-minute run time, despite its density and ranging influences, and that is perhaps the album’s greatest strength. It is an infectious journey, and despite there being so much here to uncover on repeat listens, it never feels overwhelming. There’s something special going on here, and it’s heartening to witness a band befall such tragedy, yet rise up and achieve so much. Architects of the Void is one of the best albums of 2015, and is absolutely worth your time.