Mono - Rays Of Darkness - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mono - Rays Of Darkness

by Jeff Penczak Rating:6 Release Date:2014-10-27

The prolific Japanese quartet (over a dozen releases since their formation 15 years ago), MONO are one of the leading lights on the post-rock scene. A seemingly endless touring schedule has garnered fans all over the world, while each new release builds upon and surpasses the jawdropping intensity of its predecessor. And just when it seemed impossible to top the near-religious experience of their 10th anniversary live album Holy Ground: NYC Live With The Wordless Music Orchestra, the band return with two new albums, the yin and yang of their post-apocalyptic vision.

The second, and bleaker of the two, Rays of Darkness opens quietly, settling you in for an experience that requires your undivided attention. Contrary to common criticism, post-rock and ambient guitar-based bands are not aural wallpaper to pop in and out of focus after their songs reach crescendos. It’s the build up to the ecstatic release… The tension building to the wall-rattling peak that grabs your attention and won’t let you go.

The epic, 13-minute opener ‘Recoil, Ignite’ illustrates this perfectly, both musically and through its descriptive title. A single guitar note walks the scales while a second guitar strums, Morriconi-like around it, like a spaghetti western motive gone haywire. Soon, drums pummel the sky, crashing cymbals knock heads, and the heavens open with an ear-shattering torrent that drops jaws and straightens spines. This is music that insists you sit up and prick up your ears.

So, too, is ‘Surrender’ hesitant with tension as we await the other shoe to drop and the song to decide where it’s going to take us. It never quite takes off, so we have to surrender to its decision process – the journey is more important than the destination.

‘The Hand That Holds the Truth’ may be their most minimalist composition yet. The hair on the back of your neck is tickled by a forlorn guitar tone, hot warm breath that suggests something drastic may this way come. But the hand is a fist, tightly concealing a truth which may never emerge, just as the tune starts to peer over the far horizon at a setting sun which blinds the seeker with answers to unposed questions. Silence is suddenly ripped open by a scorching vocal, vomiting truths our ears are not ready to accept.

Has MONO succumbed to vomitosis and hardcore pillaging of our eardrums? It’s both unexpected and, perhaps, unacceptable. Are we being selfish? Have we placed MONO in a comfortable box with padded walls to shelter us from this impending shit-storm of noise. We want to be coddled, held close, cooed to in our inner-ear and made to feel warm and fuzzy.

But MONO have other plans and the finale, ‘The Last Rays’, may be the final nail in the coffin of expectancy. A maelstrom of sonic bullshit that sounds like a radio tuned to static, ‘The Last Rays’ says goodbye to complacency. Perhaps MONO feel they’ve exhausted the realm of post-rock, ambient guitarscapes to the point where they need to tear down everything they’ve brought us and need to start over with a clean slate.

Like The Conet Project, there are sounds out there that make sense to someone. Unravelling the mystery, though, is something MONOs fans may not be ready to undertake without a fight and I fear this may be one of their most discussed releases in some time… and not everything said will be kind.

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