That's where Sweden's Monolord come into the mix. Their full-length debut album, Empress Rising ,due out on April 1st on EasyRider Records, is a sonic masterpiece of crushing doom. The Swedes cave in the listener's skull about 2 seconds into the first track and never really let up. The guitar tone is so fuzzed out and thick and compressed that it feels like it's actually penetrating your chest. When the bass gets a few seconds to shine, the tone is just incredible. These guys finally figured out how to keep the low end thick as a brick and add a little fuzz on top without losing any tone. I'd love to figure out what these guys used to record the guitars and bass.
Killer tones only go so far if the riffs aren't getting it done, and I'm happy to report that the riffs on Empress Rising are not only devastating, they are also catchy as hell. Monolord crams riff after riff into each song, but they don't just blow through riffs for the hell of it. Each riff is given its proper due; long enough to sink in, but not long enough that it wears out its welcome. I found myself humming a few select riffs hours after turning off the stereo. The drums fall right in line, with the drummer wearing out his cymbals and toms in proper doom fashion. When it's time for a drum fill, the dude just beats the shit out of every drum in sight, in true Bill Ward fashion.
The vocals are pretty low in the mix, which is pretty typical with doom these days. They're using a similar watery effect like the one used for the vocals on Sleep's Holy Mountain, which sounds cool, but I think that might have an effect on the overall level. I don't want to hear doom vocals way out in front, but I'm kind of tired of the buried vocals on 99% of recent doom releases. I assume the dudes are singing about misery and woe and I'd like to hear to what they have to say. Along with the vocals, the only other minor gripe is the album's pacing. Monolord pretty much stays within the same groove throughout the Empress Rising, with only minor tempo changes here and there. A little variety would have been nice, but it doesn't really detract from the album's feel. This is one of those records that you can listen to over and over again and keep finding new stuff to dig.
Overall, Empress Rising sounds like a blend of early Sabbath-worship-era Sleep and Dopesmoker-era Sleep, with a touch of Electric Wizard thrown in for some of that eerie, evil effect that the Wizard is known for. I think fans of both of those bands will really dig Empress Rising and doom fans in general will find something to like here. I'm looking forward to seeing how this album is received upon release and to seeing where the Monolord guys go from here. (Hint to EasyRider Records: a U.S. tour would be a nice start.) Empress Rising is probably my favorite debut since Pallbearer's first record, so I'm expecting big things from the Monolord crew.