After a brief lull in concerts due to the Omnicron surge, it’s good to see shows starting up again. Just last week SXSW happened in-person for the first time since 2019— basically unthinkable just a few months ago. Last weekend Swedish band Monolord headlined a showcase of heavy, doomy, sludgy, psychedelic music alongside Firebreather and Deathchant at the Teragram Ballroom. It was great to be back in the beautiful venue near DTLA— most of the crowd wore all-black, but it was what they weren’t wearing that was particularly notable: no masks.
Local metal band Deathchant— who are signed to Monolord’s old label RidingEasy— got the night started with their blend of NWOBHM riffage, stoner metal vocals and punk energy. Following up their energetic performance was Firebreather, a band whose sound is very much aligned with Monolord with slightly more growly vocals. While it’s usually pretty easy to understand what Monolord’s Thomas V. Jäger is singing about, that’s not the case with Mattias Nööjd’s throaty delivery. There was a bit of High on Fire in the mix, adding a touch of aggression to the doom metal framework.
After two solid sets from the openers, it was time for Monolord to take the stage. The band performed as a power trio, with Jäger on guitar and vocals, Esben Willems on drums and Mika Häkki on bass. The band didn’t address the audience much throughout their set, instead turning their focus toward creating dark and doomy soundscapes— an impressive feat considering the relatively Spartan three-instrument arrangement.
The band played tracks from throughout their discography, unafraid to reach back to their days on RidingEasy/EasyRider Records. They played the title track from their 2014 debut LP Empress Rising, a 12+ minute long epic that fell just about smack-dab in the middle of their set. The instrumental “Audhumbla” also made an appearance during the set, a performance that was just about as “chill” as doom metal gets.
Monolord’s third LP Rust had two entries during their set – the churning, sinister-sounding “Where Death Meets the Sea” and the psych-rock tinged title track “Rust.” The latter opened with Jäger’s reverb-drenched vocals and a church-like organ before a crushing riff pummeled the crowd. It’s no surprise that “Rust” is one of the band’s most popular songs, combining the melodic accessibility of Ghost with an earworm of a guitar riff and at around six minutes in length, an arrangement that won’t turn off casual metal fans.
Of course, they’re out promoting a new record released in 2021 on heavy music giant Relapse Records, Your Time To Shine, so naturally they opened their set with its lead-off track, “The Weary.” They also performed “I’ll Be Damned,” which came crashing out of the gate with a grinding riff before it slowed down to make room for Jäger’s psych-tinged vocals.
If a doom metal band could find any modicum of mainstream success without alienating a head-banging, devil-horn throwing metalhead, it’s Monolord. The band’s set showcased their ability to take a genre that has seemingly hit a dead-end in terms of new ideas and present it in a fresh manner. The mostly clean, reverberated vocals won’t terrify your indie rock-loving friends while the riffs are heavy enough, the distortion thick enough, and the tempos sludgy enough to maintain its metal integrity.
Where Death Meets the Sea
I’ll Be Damned
The Bastard Son
Lord of Suffering
We Will Burn
The Last Leaf
File Photo: Raymond Flotat