I should mention this straight away: I’m not a fan of slow, plodding doom metal. Yet, at some point in the middle of my first listen through Wilt’s first full-length effort, feelings of being underwhelmed and just a bit bored gradually gave way to a spontaneous understanding of the band’s vision. Even though Moving Monoliths is a relatively safe effort that doesn’t seek to do anything too differently, it is still a solid album of atmospheric black metal that will take you to another place, if you let it.
Part of the reason for my initially lukewarm reaction to Moving Monoliths is the production. As a generally doomy record with slow, deliberate chord progressions and melodies that tend to act as textures rather than attention-seeking leads, the overall sound becomes especially crucial. Unfortunately, the album doesn’t quite deliver in this aspect. While there are a few issues, the biggest by far is that the drums stick out from the mix in an odd way, particularly when heavy blastbeats and tom fills reverberate with disproportionate power. However, though it is evident from the unbalanced sound that this was a self-produced album, the flipside is that the music has a dynamic, live-energy feel. And once the ears acclimate, it isn’t such a significant issue because the mix is still clear.
The music itself is competently written, taking the listener on a steady ride filled with extended chords and leads drenched in reverb that weave in and out of the wall of sound, but without much that really catches the ear. Parts of songs stand out, such as the foreboding riff that ends “Illusion of Hope”, or the clean section on “The Elder” that offers breathing room to an interesting interplay between bass, synth, and whispered vocals before abruptly giving way to a satisfying climax. Most of the record is a pretty uniform experience though, generally sticking quite conservatively to ordinary chord progressions in one or two keys through the length of each song, relying on the drums above all else to create the ebb and flow of energy. Thankfully, despite the 10+ minute song durations, the album as a whole isn’t too long and doesn’t ever overstay its welcome.
There is just one glaring weakness with the writing, and it is the stiff and unimaginative drumming, which never really does anything to set it apart from something that could have been easily programmed. In fact, in hearing the way that the drums tend to stick obstinately to certain robotic rhythms and fills, I initially suspected that I was listening to a drum machine. However, there is most certainly a human drummer listed on Wilt’s roster. Given the otherwise professional execution, I would assume that the vanilla drumming was a conscious decision, perhaps to draw as little attention as possible while still giving the simple rhythm of the songs some drive, but this was taken awfully far.
The vocals sound excellent, exhibiting a strained torturedness that is characteristic of atmospheric post-metal, but with the depth and fullness of the common midrange black metal scream. It is disappointing that the vocal rhythms are as boring as the drumming. You know the sort – the labored delivery that invariably ends in a longer scream for gratuitous emphasis at the end of a riff…it gets tiresome. I find that a lot of black metal bands with harsh vocals are guilty of this to some degree though, so this is arguably just something that comes with the territory, but by Satan’s beard I am still going to complain about it.
Despite flirting a bit too closely with monotony, Moving Monoliths remains a sensibly crafted piece. If you’re already a fan of atmospheric doom metal who finds such accusations of monotony blasphemous to the genre, it could be well worth checking this out. Otherwise, this probably won’t be the album that makes you a convert.
1. Illusion of Hope
2. Moving Monoliths
3. The Elder