From the first recording session through to the present day, it’s taken almost eighteen months for What Is Imposed Must Be Endured (Black Bow Records), the debut album from Sheffield-based quartet Blind Monarch, to see the light of day. In that time the band has shared stages with leading lights of the UK Death-Doom scene so it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to suggest that this album is eagerly awaited.
Misery is the Yorkshire foursome’s calling card, beginning with the cheery ‘Suffering Breathes My Name’. It’s the first of four tracks as colossal in length as well as unfathomable weight, Tom Blyth’s deathly croak coating a savage riff and some pummelling rhythms in a foul disease. It’s an unflinching sound but inflections are apparent: the screeching lead of the mid-point; the maudlin mope of the bedrock breaking into a lumbering swing of the ogre’s club.
It’s a powerful opening bringing to mind the monstrous Drone of Ommadon and Bismuth, but that penchant for slightly switching up the speed gives an energy to the hateful mass. At just over ten-and-a-half minutes long the ensuing ‘My Mother, My Cradle, My Tomb’ is the shortest track of the album but is enlivened by a horrific vocal and a pace which deserves an award for the Slowest Groove Ever. The squealing midriff gives way to a gentle, spectral solo before exploding towards the hideous crawl of the final segment.
The melodic notes of the title track fire into a crushing swing as if a Sinatra standard had kids hanging onto its ankles and was screaming for them to stop. Wonderfully dictated by Lee Knights’ stickwork, the fearful riff and bass sweep and saw with vengeful anger, Blyth’s lascivious Blackened growl bossing his Death grunt and giving a delicious edge to the Funeral horror of the third quarter. Some mournful leadwork takes this magnificent piece of work to its rest, the drums suitably accompanied by Paul Hubbard’s rumbling bass.
The closing ‘Living Altar’ begins and ends in fetid beauty: the sound of worms sucking through wet earth amid siren song, religious chants, and an eerily-strummed guitar. The hum of the resulting fulmination is head-splitting, a resonant plunder through the weeds of life: a dual vocal ripping through the remaining matter with a heavy serrated edge, the beat raining down blows in hypnotic fashion.
This kind of harrowing, miserable Doom is like a pint of stout: rich, lush, heavy, and with a profound bitterness. With the inventive, sweetened nuances littered through this debut album Blind Monarch prove themselves to be of Imperial variety, and in doing so confirm that the product has indeed been worth the wait.
8 / 10