Release Date: Oct 14, 2016
Record label: Temporary Residence
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Post-Rock, Japanese Rock
This is a back to basics affair, an attempt to sum up everywhere Mono has been, but it's also their noisiest record ever. Opener "Death in Rebirth" is a companion piece to "Death and Reverse," their half of 2015's Transcendental split with Ocean. It picks up where the earlier cut left off. Takaakira Goto's and Hideki Suematsu's guitars introduce a minimal riff.
Tokyo four-piece Mono may not have always been the most original of bands, entering the 'post-rock' fray a little later to the game and with a clear lineage to their sound, much like their contemporaries Envy are to 'Screamo'. While people often miss Mono as one of the big hitters of post-rock (your Godspeeds, Mogwais, Sigur Roses and Tortoises for instance) they have remained a consistent reminder of the genre's power, even if it's formula became something of a music fan's joke after it reached saturation point in the mid-Noughties. That is unfortunate to some extent, as Mono's creative peak was 2006's You Are There just as people were starting to get sick of their sound.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Mono making a record inspired by Dante’s The Divine Comedy is that it took them nine albums to do it. Since their dramatic 2001 debut Under the Pipal Tree, the Japanese ensemble’s arrangements have only swelled, growing ever grander and more orchestral—like a lot of instrumental post-rock bands, they’ve often struggled with how to one-up themselves. So on Requiem for Hell, their ninth album, they look to nothing less than the mother of all epics, Dante’s account of the journey of man’s soul, on a song cycle patterned around the rhythms of life and death.
Heaven and Hell. Good and evil. Life and death. A painter could get lost in these subjects and construct an item vastly different from what was imagined. They would start with one stroke, then another, and then 20 more before forgetting what purpose the first dash of paint had. This is not the case ….
Post-rock bastions MONO have always succeeded in forming swells of long form, spirit-purging orchestra that confronts upheaval. Their return with the 5-song long Requiem for Hell doesn't engage this canon with an evolved musical lexicon and its familiarity leaves you flat footed. Despite a reunion with producer Steve Albini, who helped to bring out the best of their past material, what was once stirring has become less interesting.
Review Summary: Mono aren't worth talking about anymore, but here are 356 words anyway.Mono haven't improved. Mono haven't gotten worse. Mono haven't changed in over ten years but that doesn't stop fans from arguing where each new album falls in respect to the others. The band has existed in some bubble universe that only allows them to step side to side without altering any aspect of their sound or approach to composition.
The Dante-inspired imagery of the journey after death provides the basis for Mono’s ninth album, a largely successful set of five tracks that demonstrates the band’s outstanding musicianship and the exemplary work of producer Steve Albini. His first involvement with Mono was on the outstanding Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, in 2004. In Requiem for Hell, the familiar intricacy of playing impresses, especially in "Ely’s Heartbeat", an exquisite composition that, like the best of Mono over the last fifteen years, integrates a filigree of instrumentation with a powerful surge of sound that avoids the trap of bombast; a trap that can catch some lesser post-rock outfits, resulting in a total effect that amounts to rather less than the sum of the constituent parts.