Monasterium - Church of Bones | Album Review

If you find straight up doom metal can be a bit too depressive and desolate at times, but you find power metal too happy and fast-paced, then Monasterium’s blend of epic doom is for you.

Polish epic doom metallers Monasterium release their second full-length album Church of Bones. Monasterium’s sound is very traditional heavy/doom, making them sound almost like a time capsule from the early 80s, newly rediscovered. Although despite the traditional foundation of their sound, this band is not without its more modern touches, for example some of the guitar instrumentation is quite dissonant at times almost black metal inspired. The first song, ‘Church of Bones’, is a particularly catchy track with sinister, dark sounding chord progressions.

The vocals (Michał Strzelecki) are very powerful, sounding like a blend of Dio, Mercyful Fate, Helloween and Candlemass. Dramatic, theatrical diction, harmonised higher and lower vocals and the odd higher pitched power metal scream add to the sense that these guys take inspiration from the likes of Mercyful Fate and Candlemass. Meanwhile, the gradually building, almost power ballad-esque structure of some tracks e.g. ‘Liber Loagaeth’ is more reminiscent of early power metal such as Helloween and Queensryche, further cemented by soulful vocals and emotional guitar solos. However, the continuing feel of melancholy and brooding in the instrumentation, the dark timbre of the vocals as well as the mystical, occultic lyrics; which delve into religion, history and mythology, help to confirm that their sound is deeply rooted in doom and traditional heavy metal.

Most songs are mid paced with a slow, tension-building verse and then a heavier chorus led by riffs and powerful vocals. There is also the odd brief slower, melancholic, acoustic interlude or outro e.g. ‘The Last Templar’. The dirge-like ‘Embrace the Void’ slows it down a bit for a real mournful doom fest.

Many songs from their previous eponymous album could easily fit in on Church of Bones and vice versa. However, their previous release was perhaps a little more varied, featuring a few elements of which are missing from their latest release – for example on Monasterium they incorporated some guitar tapping, a bass solo as an intro, an evil laugh, an Egyptian sounding intro with tribal drums, and vocals which bordered on harsh vocals on one song. Whilst their sound seems a little more boiled down on this album, let’s hope that these touches of variation won’t be permanently abandoned as they added some interesting spice to their previous release.

The final track is a catchy closer, with amazing vocals (Strzelecki harmonises with Leo Stivala of Forsaken, who provides guest vocals on this track) during the chorus giving the sense of a motivational battle chant. The verses between are dramatic and pained sounding, making the chorus feel more triumphant each time it comes around. The dramatic lyrical delivery of ‘the stake awaits me’ at the end of the acoustic interlude bursts into a furtive guitar solo – having a very powerful and emotional effect. It is somewhat reminiscent of the mournful tale of ‘Melissa’ by Mercyful Fate.

Altogether Church of Bones is a solid album - nothing particularly ground-breaking in sound or song writing, but some great old-school sounding epic heavy/doom metal nonetheless. It will be interesting to see if Monasterium vary their sound over subsequent albums.

Would recommend for fans of: Evangelist (the anonymous band which some of the members of Monasterium are also in), Candlemass, Saint Vitus, Solitude Aeturnus, Dio-era Black Sabbath, Mercyful Fate, Helloween

Rating: 7.5/10

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