Legendary Japanese post-rock band MONO have put together two albums, ‘Rays of Darkness’ and ‘The Last Dawn’, the former of which is the first album they’ve made in 15 years to not feature any orchestration whatsoever. These are two separate albums telling the same story in a different light, there is a distinct ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ side over the ten tracks on the two albums. There is a complete tonal shift from one to the other, but they could be listened to in one sitting.
‘The Last Dawn’ is the ‘Light’ side and has a lot more of a pretty atmosphere than it’s counterpart, the opening track ‘The Land Between Tides/Glory’ shows how brilliantly they can make their more epic long songs sound melodic and beautiful. Although there isn’t much orchestration on this LP there is some subtle uses of it rather than having it smash you over the head with endless crescendos like so many Post-Rock bands do. The song ‘Katana’ goes along steadily without having to build into some massive crescendo, it instead relies on the lush keys to push the track forward. This album is based upon melodies that are carried out over long stretches of time and played in the most delicate ways that they can. The title track on here is a testament to that and for the first five minutes we get some of the most emotional and heartfelt music on the album.
‘Rays Of Darkness’ relies a lot more on the dark atmosphere that they can capture from their walls of guitar. They continue to only crack out a big crescendo when it’s really necessary like on the opening track ‘Recoil, Ignite’ which has their delicate beginnings turn into beautifully crafted madness. The guitars gradually build from lightly plucked notes into notes drenched in reverb and distortion that are stretched on for an eternity. Elsewhere on the album the song ‘Surrender’ uses horns to successfully sound beautiful and hauntingly dark at the same time. The only song on the album with vocals ‘The Hand That Hold The Truth’ has some monstrous growls kind of mixed into the instrumentation that sounds like he’s shouting over it, while the closing song ‘The Last Rays’ is a song filled with endless feedback from guitars, it’s truly scary.
These days a lot of post-rock bands get stick for not doing anything new, but as long as you’re doing what MONO do and pump out decent music every so often I really don’t see the need to complain. Their music has always been and still is, a compelling and interesting listen.
The Last Dawn – 8/10 Rays of Darkness – 7/10