I’ve always gravitated towards multi-instrumentalists with an array of sonic interests. Artists who extract unique ideas from a kernel of creativity always tend to mix flavors with each side project. A great example is the collective work of Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston (who just released another excellent Dysrhythmia album), as well as the unique output of Steve Peacock. I’ve previously covered his bizarre and invigorating take on avant-garde black metal with Mastery and Pandiscordian Necrogenesis, an approach he partially applied to the world of death metal with Ulthar last year.
Peacock now returns with a star-studded lineup that crafts an excellent sophomore album for his Apprentice Destroyer moniker. Once a solo project, the group’s music intersects a myriad of genres and excels at creating a consistent, dazzling record in the process. This is aided by four lead guitarists (including Peacock along with members of Pale Chalice, Ulthar, and Vastum) and a general feeling of collaboration, exploration, and just plain sonic massiveness. Put simply, Permanent Climbing Monolith is, indeed, a colossal record.
The actual musical synthesis on the record is hardly simple, though. Imagine a mashup of two Godflesh clones – one forming amid the ’70s krautrock movement, the other launching in the ’80s no wave underground – and then amplify the volume and intensity to modern metal standards. Much of the “rock” aesthetics can be traced back to early Swans, proto-metal psych rock like Iron Butterfly, and the broad krautrock palette of bands like Can and Faust. In practice, and even on paper, the combination actually makes a lot of sense; all the aforementioned bands and styles prioritize hypnotic, intense riffs coupled with a general interest in experimentation.
The album opens with some modular synthesis on “Final Moon Gate,” pulling from the Berlin School and genre staples like Tangerine Dream as well as the soundtrack work of John Carpenter. The band incorporates synths throughout, most prominently here and on interlude “The High Dimension Illuminator.” The rest of the album is predominately driven by massive walls of loud, maximilist experimental rock. The title track is a feedback-intense krautrock anthem featuring heavy use of Godflesh’s signature industrial guitar squeals. The track maintains a driving pace and a constant feeling of evolution and expansion. Guitar solos layer on guitar solos, riffs stomp over galloping drums, and Peacock’s vocals shriek out periodically.
The remaining tracks evolve in similar ways, albeit with their own slight variations. “Avalanche Arrival” is a bit more subdued and takes on a doom and sludge vibe during the intro and conclusion. Still, the industrial and noisy overtones are still prominent and pummeling. The group converts their style into a semi-acoustic approach on “Striped Dome Horizon,” before packing all their energy into a manic six-minute finale on “Falling Canyon Resonator.” Though half the length of the title track and “Avalanche Arrival,” the album’s grand exit maintains all the album’s bombast and feels almost more intense due to the amount of energy and ideas packed into a much more condensed amount of time.
Inventive, restless, and varied throughout, Permanent Climbing Monolith is a truly compelling release from one of modern metal’s most unique songwriters. Peacock may have found his most successful formula yet with Apprentice Destroyer, a surprise supergroup that’s convened for a stellar experimental display. It’s an experience that doubles as a genuinely great “loud rock” album that should find broad appeal with a wide swath of listeners.
Permanent Climbing Monolith is available now via Bandcamp.