This is the second half of our 2-part review of Mono’s new double album.
You can find the first half here.
Upon the end of our Last Dawn, we find ourselves in fading light. From this quintessential jumping point, Mono are set to launch us into Rays of Darkness. And, as with all attempts at escape velocity, violence is sure to follow such an effort. This violence takes the form of opening track ‘Recoil Ignite’. Dastardly mirroring the first track as far as the intro and track length go, ‘Recoil Ignite’ eventually announces itself and the change it holds; its crescendo is accompanied by drums that are on the verge of rolling thunder, echoing the black metal roots of this post rock creation. It too, is aptly named. If the previous exploration of light was a basking in it, this is the quick, violent release of ignition. While we are still in the realms of light, paralleled in our metaphor to be the classic Mono sound, this is a whole new take on it: faster, angrier and harsher.
Out of breath perhaps from the ending of ‘Recoil Ignite’, we approach the final three tracks of this double-release, each one of them unique and important to the overall message. The next step into darkness is ‘Surrender’, perhaps the most beautiful track on this entire release. Brass instruments in the form of a trumpet are introduced and these give the whole track an inescapable, bone chilling tinge of sorrow. This then is where all remaining light seeps out and the darkness creeps in completely. More akin perhaps to the doom releases we’ve heard thus far this year, the slow, agonizing tempo is maintained throughout the track — the brass extolling its pain and hunger like so many funeral bells, and a relentless refrain that becomes all the more insistent as if ringing in death itself.
Only to explode into ‘The Hands That Hold the Truth’. The ambient silence that is the first half of this track only magnifies its eventual tone, which is a full dive into the pit of blackness we have been led to. From the ruins of that silence and its delicate guitar, erupts the biggest surprise of this album: vocals. Not only vocals but harsh, abrasive vocals, backed by the most furious and angry arrangement Mono have ever presented us. These literally appear from out of nowhere and that is no mistake. Where the usual structure of the songs presented in this album, and indeed across the post-rock, would have called for the energetic crescendo that is their staple, we are treated instead to a blackened, inverted version of that artistic form. This is the nadir of this entire effort: having explored their bones and having dove into darkness, Mono now revel in it, covering every crevice in its soot and tar.
And after such hedonistic and fatal culmination, with what are we left? The last track, ‘The Last Rays’, is nothing but noise. Harsh, random, this track urges you to try and find some sense or order in what is left but in the end, reveals none. It is a perfect ending to an absurdly powerful double-release. Both The Last Dawn and Rays of Darkness are marked by dual characteristics: while being amazing creations of music in and of themselves, they are also much more than that. They are a statement, a drawing of the line and a deconstruction: we are Mono and this is our sound. Stripped of everything but the absolutely necessary, they have created a package that is utterly necessary. It is beautiful, harsh, delicate, and pure. Few albums have struck a particular emotional and cerebral chord with us in recent memory like this has, and for that, we cannot recommend this enough.
Mono’s The Last Dawn/Rays of Darkness gets…