Monolith – Sentience

Monolith – Sentience
Self-Released
Release Date: 13/11/2020
Running Time: 53:10
Review by Beth Jones
7/10

Hands up who likes Progressive/Tech/Djent/Industrial/Electro Metal??!!! Ah good!! Me too! Well I’ve got a little something you might like.

Monolith is a one-man project that’s got all that and more. It’s the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist, and an old friend of mine, Nathan Hughes. And his debut album, “Sentience” has just landed. Formed as a project for his university degree in 2018, Monolith has grown into his ‘passion project’, culminating in this release. It’s a meld of everything, like one big metal caravan filled with whatever the hell you want, ready to set off on a trek to wherever the hell you want, down all the twisty and turny A roads and dirt tracks you can find! Metaphorically speaking!

The album explores a myriad of soundscapes, infusing synth effects with more traditional metal instrumentation. It starts with ‘Sentience I – Awakening’. The opening couple of bars sound like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, which I thought was pretty fitting for the direction this album is aiming to take. But it quickly becomes a guitar and drum driven track full of darkness and intrigue, as well as a myriad of complex rhythms and interlocking sections. A great start.

‘Lucid’ is up next. Groove funk central!! It starts off with drums and some pretty nifty bass licks, and then tumbles into groove laden guitar. But don’t get too comfortable, as some crazy synth then drills into your brain followed by a ridiculously complex rhythm section, then some full-on thrash! It’s impossible not to move to, but do NOT try to bang you’re head, as you will either a) get annoyed at yourself for going off beat, or b) look like you’re having some kind of episode.

‘Departure’ takes you on a much floatier and more calming journey to start with. Massive reverb on a solo guitar, with wave sound effects in the background, lead into bass synths, and a Pink Floyd style guitar solo that’s indulgent, but not to the point of it becoming tacky. It’s just peaceful. I likey. ‘Skyline’ comes next. This takes the crazy djent prog madness of the first two tracks, and the mellowness of ‘Departure’, and chucks them both together, purely because it can. It also has synth sax, again, because it can. Although, I’m a bit of an old fuddy duddy when it comes to wind instruments, because I was brought up in a house full of very proficient sax players, and synth versions of them grind my gears. They just sound corny. Sorry.

Anyway, moving on! In the middle of the album, at track 6, ‘The Elusion’ we’re introduced to some more new sounds. An almost 90’s grunge feel, cloaking, but not completely obscuring, the crazy proggy madness that we have been gifted with so far. Given the point in the album, and the track name, I think this is very cleverly thought out bit of placement. Possibly a metaphor for the ‘more socially acceptable’ version of ourselves that a lot of us over here in metal corner have to create in our day to day lives, in order to be accepted within ‘normal’ circles.

The next tracks, starting with ‘The Price Of Reality’, are a much darker journey. Slower than what has gone before, and with more trepidation. ‘The Price Of Reality’ using sludgy doom inspired sections, and ‘Lost’ making use of a minor key, an altogether slower tempo, and synth strings, giving it a stark and overarching feeling of sadness. Being a melancholy soul, this is my favourite track on the album. The musicality in the instrumentation really is superb here, and the progressions and cadences almost send it into the realms of a classical composition.

‘Cmd_Shutd0wn’ sees us heading swiftly back into Electro/Djent, and is hugely Gojira inspired. It’s only a small track, but it’s no less technical. It also marks the beginning of the reverse, which will bring us full circle to the sounds that opened this album. This is more noticeable however in the penultimate track, ‘Transcend’ which draws influence from everything that has already been introduced, and neatly packages it into a little under 4 minutes. ‘Sentience II – The Neon Dreamscape’, closes the album in much the same way, ending with the same synth sounds that we were first met with in the opening bars of the album.

Musically, this album displays the undeniable talents that Nathan has, as both a musician and a composer. It’s also superbly mixed and mastered, given that the sound is huge, but was basically put together in his bedroom. But, there is a fairly large elephant in the room, that I haven’t addressed as yet. This album, in its current form, is purely instrumental, and is crying out for vocals. While every track is masterfully constructed and played, there is a vocal shaped hole in them all, that needs filling to take this album to the next level. Maybe I’m biased as vocals are my thing, but for me, with vocals, this album would be a solid 10.

That said, if you like any of the aforementioned musical styles, you really should check out “Sentience”. With Monolith, and this release, Nathan has taken a really great step onto the metal project ladder.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Sentience I – Awakening
02. Lucid
03. Departure
04. Skyline
05. Overseer
06. The Elusion
07. The Price of Reality
08. Lost
09. Cmd_Shutd0wn
10. Transcend
11. Sentience II – The Neon Dreamscape

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