It is undeniable that we live in uncertain and troubled times, a period of which this pandemic we’re struggling through is but the latest and perhaps most evident aspect. Life is increasingly complicated and burdens seem to get harder and harder to carry with each passing year, so the need to seek solace and to take refuge in things that you know you can count on becomes more and more urgent. Well, dear friend, put down those burdens for a little while, because Monolord have got your back.
Ever since 2013, when the dormant power of the Monolord became too much for a simple boogie rock band called Marulk – featuring a certain Thomas V Jäger and Esben Willems respectively on guitars/vocals and drums already – to contain, that this Swedish trio’s almost endearingly relentless dedication to The Riff has been something you can count on, almost as sure as the sun that rises every morning above your head. Thomas and Esben joined bassist Mika Häkki, and ever since then they have been compelled by the power of the riff, with no time for any frills like line-up changes or inane experimentations just for the sake of it. Theirs is a higher calling, a purer statement of intentions. After all, their bandname is “a paraphrase of an unspeakable name of an unspeakable entity that not even we dare to mention,” as Esben explains. And if you don’t like that description, Thomas has another suggestion: “make one up, and it is true!”
Do not think, however, that just by having a well defined sound and by making the riff their raison d’être, that you have them all figured out by default. A Monolord song might feel like a bridge troll that grabs you by the shoulders and just shakes you until it’s done, but that troll has a great record collection and knows how to move and groove. The four records the band put from 2014 to 2019, while clearly belonging to the same canon, all have their own distinct personality and vibe, and all echo their own nuance. Thomas cites Entombed (above all), Slayer, Type O Negative, The Hellacopters, Goatsnake and a bunch more as stuff he hears in his songwriting, while Esben admits struggling with compiling lists of influences that end up being 9000 names from AC/DC to Zeal & Ardor. Monolord walk all over the making-the-same-record-over-and-over pitfall with the same carefree ease with which they, well, fire out chunky, fuzzy riffs that somehow never sound like the last one. Or the next one.
They’ve done albums in between diaper changes with all their studio gear moved to a living room because of a newborn baby in the band, so doing it in the middle of a pandemic seems strangely par for the course. “All pieces of this chaotic puzzle feel connected in an ongoing development of the band,” Esben says, and in the end they manage to create order out of that chaos with every perfectly put together song that gives off a different vibe to their records, and never has that been more evident than with their new album, Your Time To Shine. A product of the band’s new rehearsal space/studio, it was created among litres of coffee, cinnamon buns and good bad jokes, and you can probably hear all that in the songs. A titanium strong 39 exact minutes occupied by five tight but also spacious songs, it’s a wild ride straight from the soaring, fist-raising opener The Weary and its insanely catchy melodies. You go from that to the stop/start switch between sweetness and abrasiveness of To Each Their Own, to the dense and pulsating chug of I’ll Be Damned, to the mind-expanding title-track, whose final section even brings back some of the spaced-out chill of their boogie rock beginnings. Everything culminates in the truly epic The Siren Of Yersinia, whose lonesome call you can hear in each feedback-ridden note and in each pained, buried vocal line.
It is yet another turn for Monolord – while staying very clearly on Riff Street as they always have, they are now arriving at a darker corner of that street. “To me, an honest representation of how I feel about the current state of humanity,” Esben offers, while Thomas leaves a very curious appraisal in the air: “To me it does not feel heavier. It feels more complete.” As with all the best albums, Your Time To Shine will end up meaning a lot of things to a lot of people. So maybe just keep in mind Thomas’ wise summing up: that “it sounds like Monolord, only better.”
As they always have, Monolord deliver. You can count on Monolord. And all signs point to this safe and happy place in any riff worshipper’s existence to be here for us for a long time still. When prompted for future Monolord plans, Esben couldn’t be clearer, or more reassuring: “More Monolord!”