One of the most fascinating things about instrumental bands is the power they have in letting the music speak for itself- they have no voice, but they’re still telling stories and conveying feelings with incredible emphasis. This allows to create a broader and more personal interpretation of music, something that anyone can relate to in different ways.
Instrumental rock outfit MONO are long-time masters of this art. The Tokyo-based quartet make post rock and shoegaze influences the base for their compositions, where layers of melodic guitars intertwine with solid drumming, creating atmospheric numbers charged with pathos. The group hardly care about labels and patterns though, they just sit down with their instruments and play whatever comes from their minds, following an instinctive approach that results in unique and heartfelt compositions.
Requiem for Hell puts the accent to this approach by adopting haunting and heavy atmospheres, smartly alternated by calmer numbers that still feature sinister vibes lingering around. This direction makes MONO open up to an array of different and powerful emotions, making dark vibes sound absolutely beautiful.
The record sets the mood right away with Death in Rebirth, an eight-minutes long crescendo of painful feelings, where distant guitar riffs and melodies framed by symphonic elements progressively build into a final explosion of sounds, a metaphor for a haunting yet beautiful march towards liberation. Similarly, the album’s lengthy title-track kicks in with gloomy guitar notes that get harsher with each minute, leading the listener into an atmospheric section, then into a full metal outburst made of heavily distorted riffs and frantic drumming, a surprisingly aggressive section greatly wrapped up by the band’s trademark melodic guitars. These tracks are the main showcase of the band’s artistic direction for this record, that flirts with heavier sounds without compromising its classic sound.
The album leaves space for softer tunes as well, making use of numerous instruments to enrich the texture of each track, delivering variety despite the short tracklist. Stellar barely features any guitar, focusing around a melancholic layer of violins and glockenspiel notes, where distant piano notes and distorted effects make the track fit into the album’s context successfully. Ely’s Heartbeat, a track whose concept revolves around a close friend’s first pregnancy, highlights the band’s ability in conveying contrasting emotions at the same time; the guitars provide bittersweet vibes firmly backed up by solid drum patterns, where the tender happiness for the birth of a child shines through along with the uncertainty towards the world that will welcome it. A perfect note to close the record, The Last Scene ends the circle with the reverb of soothing rhythm guitars and symphonic elements, that alternates to melodic sections, create a peaceful ending to a powerful storm of emotions.
Requiem for Hell is yet another outstanding release from MONO, that once again prove themselves as masters of a sound they have made personal and unique over the years. This record is a powerful journey through contrasting emotions, a perfect coexistence between happiness and sadness, love and loss, pain and relief- real emotions that sink deep inside the listener throughout the five tracks composing this work. This is a strong expression of music as art form, and for a group like MONO, it’s the greatest possible accomplishment.
Requiem For Hell