Setting the Stage: The demand for Monolord’s sold-out gig on Sunday at Brooklyn’s Saint Vitus Bar was so great that the venue had to add a second show the following night. It was proof of the Swedish doom band’s growth in popularity over the past five years. After tireless making records and touring as a support act, Monolord graduated to legendary metal label Relapse for their 2019 album, No Comfort, and now they enjoy headlining slots at their own shows and stoner metal festivals across North America and Europe. After emerging from the doom underground and working their way up, a sold-out show at the premier metal bar in Brooklyn felt like due justice.
Taking the Stage: Portland quintet Blackwater Holylight opened the night with a set of serene doom, combining methodical grooves with spacious melodies and atmospherics. Signed to Monolord’s old indie label — cult heavy psych imprint RidingEasy Records — they were a fitting support act. Much like how Monolord used to open for bands like Windhand, Blackwater Holylight was now opening for Monolord in a proverbial passing of the doom-metal torch.
Following Blackwater Holylight, Monolord took the stage backed by a wall of Orange cabinets, insinuating the massive volume the band was about to project. After headlining Desertfest NYC back in April, some were prepared for the band’s steady barrage of low-end frequencies and were seeing the band for a second time in 2019. Opening with “Where Death Meets the Sea”, Monolord settled into a comfortable pocketed physical groove that could be felt as well as heard. Instead of a mere head nod, the music demanded a full-body sway from its audience, and the sold-out crowd obliged.
Bassist Mika Häkki’s emphatic gestures and swings of his instrument emphasized loud-soft dynamics with a visual aide; meanwhile, guitarist and vocalist Thomas Jäger kept a more reserved stage presence — for most of the set, at least — singing through his signature vocal effects that render an Ozzy-like result of hazy melody and chorus delay. Drummer Esben Willems became a human metronome for the trudging doom of songs like “Lord of Suffering” and “The Bastard Son”, the latter being the lead single to No Comfort and garnering the biggest response from concertgoers. Jäger didn’t say much between songs, but he stepped up to the mic to introduce the album’s second single: “This is about being very lonely and smoking copious amounts of weed. It’s called ‘The Last Leaf.’” The crowd cheered in solidarity.
Since emerging on RidingEasy earlier in the decade, Monolord have blossomed into a global doom institution, and their many tours and festival dates have sharpened them into a masterful live band. Jäger and Häkki use massive pedal boards to achieve their desired guitar effects, each pedal chosen deliberately and employed in their chain with tact and expertise. Because of their boutique gear, the band create tones that are patently their own, honed over years of road-tested trials, and their set at Saint Vitus Bar was a near flawless run through their recent material (sadly, the excellent 2015 album Vænir was not represented in the setlist, though its iconography adorned Häkki’s bass cab).
For the closer, they returned to their debut album for the title track, “Empress Rising”, giving longtime fans a flashback to Monolord’s formative years on RidingEasy. After being restrained all night, Jäger dipped into the crowd to play the final guitar solo surrounded by fans in the front row. It wasn’t indulgent or showy; rather, it was a climactic moment of mutual joy between audience and performer, closing the show triumphantly.
Photo Gallery: Monolord and Blackwater Holylight perform in Brooklyn (click to enlarge and scroll through):
All photos by Jon Hadusek
Where Death Meets the Sea
Lord of Suffering
The Bastard Son
The Last Leaf