It’s unfair to compare Black Monolith to Deafheaven, but it’s impossible to talk about Black Monolith without the context of Deafheaven. Black Monolith is a one-man black-metal-derived band from Oakland; the guy behind that band, Gary Bettencourt, has occasionally served as a touring guitarist in Deafheaven. Black Monolith’s debut LP, Passenger, was mixed by Jack Shirley, who produced both Deafheaven albums. And Passenger will be the inaugural release on All Black Recording Company, the new label launched by Deafheaven frontman George Clarke.
That’s the context, and that context alone will almost inevitably leave readers wondering a couple things:
1. Does Black Monolith sound like Deafheaven?
2. Does Passenger have a reason to exist on it own merits, or is it merely a vanity extension of Deafheaven?
Those are fair questions! Here’s how I answer them:
1. At points, Black Monolith does sound quite a bit like Deafheaven. At other points, the two bands sound nothing alike. Immediately you’ll notice that Passenger is much rawer, more raucous, and frankly more rocking than anything released by Deafheaven. It’s as much a crust-punk album as it is a black metal album; on tracks like “Dead Hand” or “Victims & Hangmen,” there’s a real Swedish D-beat influence. “Void” and “Adhere,” on the other hand, are pretty scathing atmospheric black metal that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Rhinocervs cassette. But throughout Passenger, Black Monolith do share Deafheaven’s strong melodic sensibilities, and on occasion, their textural sensibilities, too, especially on the climactic (and awesome) closing track, “Eris.”
2. The former. I wouldn’t have elected to feature Passenger on Stereogum if it weren’t worthy, but I think calling it merely “worthy” is doing it a pretty severe disservice. I’ve been listening to Passenger on almost constant repeat for the last three days, and I fucking love the thing. I love the juxtaposition of melody and noise. I love Bettencourt’s performances across the board, especially on drums and vocals. I love the way the lusher black metal moments are abutted by filthy, flag-waving punk and vice-versa. Like much of the best underground metal in America today, Passenger is not the product of any one genre, but the result of an ecstatic consumption of music — its sole constant element is its joyous, furious energy.
We’ve got Passenger for you to stream in full today, in advance of its release. Listen loud.