The first time I heard BEHOLD! THE MONOLITH’s self-titled debut album from 2009, my jaw dropped. Here was a truly heavy band with enough balls to hack their way out of a tired and used up genre like stoner metal, open their music up to a multitude of influences and create their own idiosyncratic sound. That being said, B!TM’s debut somehow lacked a key uniting element. It was, in many ways, like a collection of really, really good drafts that still needed a final reworking to come off as a homogenous piece of work. That’s why I had high hopes for this year’s Defender, Redeemist. I was not disappointed.
Defender, Redeemist opens with the grandiose track “Guardians Procession,” a minute and a half long tribute to the metal-album intro, complete with solemn, synchronized guitar melody lines and the ceremonial air of a coronation. Who’s taking the throne? B!TM are, which becomes clear as soon as Kevin McDade’s flesh-ripping intro bass line to “Halv King” begins. “Halv King” is absolutely one of the hardest and fastest punching metal hymns I’ve heard in a long time (it’s still early, but I’m gonna venture a guess, and say that this song’ll end up on my top five list of metal tunes in 2012, come the end of the Mayan calendar). The main riff will blow you out of whatever you’re sitting in, and Chase Manhattan’s machine gun paced double kick drum attack makes you think of HIGH ON FIRE’s brilliant “Rumours of War” from Death is this Communion. Resemblances aside though (like HoF, B!TM is also a power trio), B!TM are completely their own men, a fact never more evident than when they eloquently exchange the power metal-like intensity of the opening part of “Halv King,” with a heavier than heavy slow-mo riff homage to Tommy Iommi’s legacy.
“Desolizator” follows and demonstrates B!TM’s chameleonic nature even further by placing the song’s gravitational point in Matt “The Human Riff Machine” Price’s ominous, almost death metal-ish, chugging. Kevin McDade’s vocal range is also in fine form here. Screaming is one thing; going from a fast paced grit n’ gravel vocal that would make Lemmy proud to a brutal, guttural growling is no easy task, and amazingly enough the rapid thematic changes in B!TM’s musical landscape never come off as unconvincing or eclectic.
More goodies for the stoner crowd in the shape of “Redeemist,” (half-title track, I guess?) gnawing away at your ears with a slow and sludgy circular riff reminiscent, to some extent, of THE MELVINS’ album Houdini. “We Are The Worm” and “Witch Hunt Supreme” display even more of Matt Price’s signature riffage, crafting a multitude of labyrinthine melody lines into elaborate, MASTODON-like, arabesques of prog-power. “Cast On The Black/Lamentor/Guided By The Southern Cross,” which clocks in at almost fourteen minutes, is a daring attempt at fusing disparate song structures together into an awesome display of prog prowess. Finally “Bull Colossi” tops off the glass with a processional outro and an acoustic intermezzo to cleanse your palate and prepare you for life after Defender, Redeemist.
B!TM have crafted a powerful album. It’s hard not to feel optimistic about the state of the metal scene today, when you’ve just gone wandering in the sonic landscape that is Defender, Redeemist. Whatever confusion or perhaps stylistic insecurity that marred B!TM’s self-titled debut from 2009 is completely gone, leaving a band that has found its own unique and highly convincing voice. I believe the future has only good things in store for us from this trio of leviathan sound.