Post-rock has really matured in the last several years now. Now a fully fledged and cherished style of music, the scene is swamped with new, exciting and incredibly atmospheric talent. Originally formed in 1999, Japan’s MONO have become somewhat of a cherished icon in the post-rock world. Known for their incredibly moving and atmospheric soundscape, the band have built a solid back catalogue over their 17 year career. Now, album number nine, Requiem For Hell, is here but does it do enough to stand firm to their untouchable back catalogue.
To get a feel for what Requiem For Hell is all about, opening track Death In Rebirth paints a pretty solid picture. Standing at a hefty eight minutes, the record opens slowly and softly, with an isolated and solitary lead riff from Takaakira Goto. As the track progresses each element to MONO‘s intriguing sound is introduced. First, a solemn and repetitive drum beat from Yasunori Takada, then a hint of bass tones from Tamaki Kunishi and then, the shoegaze-inspired riffs of Hideki Suematsu. It’s a fantastic way to build momentum for a track, one that doesn’t suffer from any vocal input as the closing segment of the track is enormous; one that crushes you under the immense pressure of all of MONO‘s traits blended together into one emphatic finale.
From there, Requiem For Hell becomes even more interesting and explorative. Stellar is a beautiful track. The inclusion of strings, which featured on earlier records, are re-introduced here and to glorious effect. Stellar swings in solitary melody as the strings paint a moving picture which is only reinforced by the solitary tones of the piano. It’s gorgeous, moving and demonstrates the sheer ability at MONO‘s disposal to create a immersive atmosphere.
Clocking nearly 18 minutes, the title track of Requiem For Hell is both expansive and intricate. The track unfolds into a lovely solitary riff from Takaakira Goto. The silence surrounding this guitar play is suffocating, one that focuses your ears purely to isolated notes from the guitar. This continues for several minutes, breathing life into the track as it progresses and you can’t help but feel connected to every note that resonates to the ears. It ensnares you and pulls you under its spell. And then, the track roars into life. Explosive drumming and a steady guitar rhythm from Hideki Suematsu take centre stage and this is where the track truly shines. The beat here is infectious and the fusion of the shoegaze noise adds another level of immersion to the track as the volume and weight of the track increases throughout. This momentum builds and builds until MONO explode into a fiery finale with noise, chaotic and frantic drumming and bizarre time-signatures, it’s a moment that is both disrupting and a little unnerving, but the shining light here is the band’s uncanny ability to explore a variety of movements and feelings on one track.
Ely’s Heartbeat was the first single MONO released in the build up to Requiem For Hell and the track itself adds another element of exploration to the band’s existing explorative sound. Opening softly with solitary tones from the synthesizer, before the subtle inclusion of a heartbeat is heard. The track itself is dedicated to the band’s long-time friend Jeremy‘s first born (Ely) and the impact of the inclusion of her heartbeat is a nice touch. It showcases that despite their ambient sound, there is still a human characteristic deeply rooted within. This is further enforced as the track unfolds with another display of gorgeous guitar tones and haunting strings. Backed with a solid drumbeat from Yasunori Takada, there is a degree of weight present here, enough to carry the track in steady rhythm as Ely’s Heartbeat dazzles you with elements of shoegaze. A truly moving track indeed.
Requiem For Hell closes with The Last Scene and whilst the track continues the band’s atmospheric approach to post-rock, it feels fresh and vibrant to what came before. Ambient tones and subtle drumming offers backing to intricate guitar play until this builds into an emphatic closure. The volume and impact is intensified and the effect is that it uplifts you. Throughout the duration of Requiem For Hell, a degree of emotions are experienced here and it only seems fitting that the last segment of the record sees to uplift you.
By no means is Requiem For Hell an easy-listening experience. With the band’s ambient and atmospheric style, you’d be forgiven if this record doesn’t sit well for those who are unfamiliar with MONO and post-rock in general. This is a record that was built to be played from start to finish and not for sporadic listening. However, if Requiem For Hell is given the time and attention it deserves, then what is on offer here is a record that truly explores a plethora of emotions. Sorrow, pain, loss, happiness, love; this is a record that will move you. The sheer weight and impact of MONO‘s soundscape is enough to hold your attention without the need for vocal input, and that is an achievement in itself. Requiem For Hell is another solid addition by the Japanese outfit, one that can sit firmly in a stellar back catalogue of sheer musical exploration.
Requiem For Hell is set for release on October 14th via Pelagic Records.
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