Every so often, an album comes around that seems hell bent on breaking all the rules. Metal is no stranger to this, and even in a genre where the rules are played exceptionally fast and loose, we’ve seen lots of innovation in arrangement, songwriting and instrumentation. Sometimes this innovation is simply doing what’s least expected for its own sake, but sometimes it comes from a place that is truly inspired, seemingly beamed into the world as an already conceived idea flowing out of a human vessel. Enter Farer and their truly unique debut Monad.
Farer began life circa 2013 as MENHIR, creating a name for themselves around and about but not really leaving the kind of lasting mark they were looking for. After two and a half years of writing what would end up becoming Monad, the band finally realized the sound they were after: careful craftsmanship of bleak, doom infused soundscapes that still feel cinematic and grand, and, most integrally, oppressive and often confrontational walls of noise that mimic the existential emptiness of being. To make this happen, the band had to adopt a configuration that, until recently, really only worked as a gag in This is Spinal Tap, although arguably it’s the best gag in the whole movie. I’m talking about two bass players, baby.
Now, it immediately becomes apparent why Monad and I found each other, but I promise that this is not just a gimmick for Farer. The band’s unconventional arrangement serves as a way for them to properly express their musical ideas, and in all honesty, after listening to Monad a couple times through, I don’t know how they could manage to do this without two bass players. The extra low end, coupled with the absence of guitars, allows the deep rumble of the songs to really shine, but equally important is the way the two instruments create rich textures that play off each other. There isn’t a “lead bass” and a “rhythm bass” here; instead, Frank de Boer and Arjan van Dalen, in addition to trading off vocals, trade off creating wild, harsh noise and disquieting washes with various effects pedals over throbbing, pulsing, shifting rhythms.
Monad, in typical doom fashion, is four tracks long and spans just under an hour, but it is a very compelling listen. Each song features movements of harsh noise, doomy chugging, mournful tones, spacey ambience and interesting textures, all paced in a way that doesn’t make anything feel awkward. This isn’t an album that is rushed. It takes its time and builds layers of pounding drums, bass on bass and twin shrieked vocals in a way that is very satisfying when the payoff hits. In case you couldn’t tell, Monad isn’t an album that is built on riffs or hooks. Instead, it is all about the whole package, one that paints a very vivid, visceral picture of the grim and brutal cycles of creation and destruction. There’s something deeply unsettling about the way these songs come together, like you know something is wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on what, until you finally realize what is making these sounds. It’s incredibly impressive what Farer manage to do here, and the way they managed to accomplish it is exciting and original.
If you’re looking for something that is quite different, Monad is going to be right up your alley. It’s not an easy listen, but it is very rewarding, and it’s definitely something that will get a lot of conversations started. I find it very refreshing to see innovation driven by vision, and Farer have both in spades. It’ll be really interesting to see what is next for this Dutch band, but I’m sure it’s going to be no less bleak, oppressive and righteous when it happens. Maybe next time they’ll have three basses. A man can certainly dream…