Monolithe’s latest album Nebula Septem is quite something. With a firm concept and a collection of songs that’s arguably the band’s most diverse and enjoyable yet, it seems that here is a band that can do no wrong and are simply getting better and better as time goes by.
Benoît Blin, who plays guitar in the band, was nice enough to go into detail about the album and what makes it what it is…
What are your influences?
When the band started in 2001 our musical influences were mainly coming from the English scene from the late eighties/early nineties, such as the Big Three of Doom Metal: Anathema, Paradise Lost & My Dying Bride. Over the past fifteen years, our tastes have evolved and nowadays, you can feel a lot of things in Monolithe’s music, from seventies prog rock to electronic music. To sum up, any artist in any style who likes musical exploration and prefers moving away from the standards could be an influence for us. When it comes to lyrics, science fiction has always been a major influence. It can be seen on “The Great Clockmaker”, which is a concept developed throughout our four first albums, as well as the last three.
What have you been listening to lately that you want to recommend?
Vessels – “The Great Distraction”: the fourth album of an English band who used to play post-rock on their two first records and changed direction drastically to electronic music on their third one. Their strength is that they play live as a full band with acoustic drums.
David Gilmour – “Live At Pompeii”: I’ve always been a Pink Floyd fan and especially David Gilmour’s guitar style so it’s really great that he returned to Pompeii’s amphitheatre for a real show this time. It’s always a pleasure to hear and see him play his songs and some of the classics…His music takes the listener another dimension while played live. I just wish I had been there!
Ulver – “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi EP”: I have followed Ulver’s career since their black metal era and I’m fascinated by their ability to renew themselves each time. Some of their albums are better than others, but the direction they took on their last one and this EP really speaks to me.
Nebula Septem has a very specific concept – tell us about this
As “Nebula Septem” is our seventh album and because we like to play with numbers, we put, like we did in the past, some references to the number 7. This time, we went further: seven songs which last seven minutes each, seven musicians, Each song title starts with one of the seven first letters of the alphabet, each letter refers to the key of the song according to the occidental musical scale, heptagons on the cover, etc. We’re not big fans of albums that are just a collection of songs put one after another without any connection between them. We prefer when a song is part of a whole, linked to the others. That’s one of the reasons why we developed that concept, to make “Nebula Septem” an entity on its own. The lyrics on the album are, for the majority of them, about extra-terrestrial life.
What unique challenges did the writing of the songs have due to the constraints of the concept?
The main constraints we imposed ourselves on this album were the seven minutes songs written in seven different keys. That means the songs were developed to fit this duration from the beginning. They have been shaped like small diamonds to have only what’s necessary to make them sound perfect. Some of the riffs have been written in a certain key and transposed to another one so that we could have the seven keys on the record. But this constraint inspired us for most of the riffs, so, it was not that much of a constraint after all. At the end of the day, I personally see it pretty much an exercise in style like the writers from a French literature group called OuLiPo do.
What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
I’d say “Delta Scuti”. It’s the first time in the history of Monolithe that a song is written collaboratively. It brings a special feeling to the song; it’s a bit different from the others. It’s still a Monolithe song but with something more, or rather something else.
Actually I love all these new songs. “Delta Scuti” may not be the best, depending on who you ask but it’s definitely the one I enjoy the most playing.
How would you say this latest release of yours compares to your previous work?
Having short songs compared to the one-song albums we released in the past, or even the fifteen-minute tracks we wrote for the two last albums, helps apprehend this new record more easily. It’s probably the main difference. Musically, it follows the direction we took with Epsilon Aurigae/Zeta Reticulli, with faster tempos compared to the first records. We still belong to the doom metal sphere though, but, as always, there’s more to our music. The length of the tracks makes this album catchier, with more straight-to-the-point songs. The most distinctive new element is the first half of “Gravity Flood”, the last song, which is pure electronic music, close to synthwave. It’s also the first time we worked with Jari Lindholm for the mixing part. He did such an amazing job, that I don’t think the album could have sounded better. It’s more powerful and much clearer than before.
Now that you have completed work on the album, what’s your view of it?
Even if the album was finished several months ago, it’s too soon for me to have an objective opinion about it…It probably sounds cliché but I consider it as our best one. My musical tastes have evolved following Monolithe’s career so I’m completely in tune with it. I don’t listen to a lot of metal these days but I’m always interested in hearing something fresh, different than what’s released these days. I’m confident that’s what this album is about. In a word, I can speak for the rest of the band telling we’re more than proud of it!
If you had it to do it over again, would you change anything?
We could have pushed the concept a bit further and write songs with tempos multiples to seven, 98 or 112 bpm for example! Other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing; this album is perfect as it is.
How does the album artwork relate to the album’s concept?
The artwork was once again created by Robert Høyem, an artist we have worked with for the past five/six years and who has been in charge of our design since. It shows many heptagons and seven stripes circles, which are directly linked to the concept.
It doesn’t have a specific meaning and everyone can feel different about it. To me, it represents a door, a sort of entrance of a wormhole or a portal to get to another dimension, somewhere where there could be aliens, which connects to the lyrics.
What are your ambitions for Nebula Septem?
Our strongest ambition is that our new music will please the people who are following us and we expect to attract new people as well. We worked a lot writing and releasing this album and hope listeners will love it as much as we do. We write the music we like, mostly for us, but there’s nothing better than sharing it with the outside world and realising you knew what you were doing.
How do you think your music will progress in the future?
It’s hard to tell because our new songs have just been unleashed and we’re still rehearsing them so that they sound live the best possible way. So I really can’t tell you for the moment. That being said, I can assure you there won’t be any radical changes in our music like some bands like to do these days. The essence of Monolithe will stay the same.
There will probably be new things we haven’t done before, like the clean vocals on “Zeta Reticuli” or the electronic part on “Nebula Septem” though.
How do you think you fit into the wider extreme music scene?
I think we are a respected band with acknowledged qualities and our followers value us for that. We started playing live a couple of years ago and got very good feedback about it. So I think we’re stronger than ever on both aspects, studio and live. Even if our music has evolved during the years, we got more and more attention and it seems to go on that way. We really start to get sick of still being labelled as “funeral” doom metal sometimes….We still play doom of course, mostly, but that’s with a lot of different other things in it and even if we have slow parts, the “funeral” aspect of our music, if we ever had one, is long gone. We had a bad review once because the guy read we played funeral doom and expected something close. He was disappointed about it, which I understand if it’s what he’s into. But the misunderstanding around it can also be frustrating for us.
What’s it like working with Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions?
Label manager Gérald offered us to join the label after the first Monolithe show we played in 2016 in Nantes. We were still involved with Debemur Morti at the time, so we had to decline the offer. But we changed our minds later, after we parted ways with DM.
Things are going really well with them. They’re doing their best to help their bands to develop and it’s great that we can be part of it. We are in contact with them everyday. They also have some really good bands, some of them we already played gigs with.
Do you have any upcoming shows you want to talk about?
Nothing has been officially announced but we’re working on different things at the moment.
What does 2018 hold in store for Monolithe?
The past two years have been very thrilling for us and we expect 2018 to be as exciting. We have a new album released, a new line-up following the departure of singer Richard last year, a new label, as well as many new stimulating things. We expect to play these new songs in the best places in Europe and even, possibly, to cross the borders of the old continent.
Any final words?
I really thank you for your interest in Monolithe.
If some of the readers want to dig deeper into our music, a five-episode video documentary called “Innersight” has just been released. Each member speaks about the history of the band as well as the new album. You can check it on YouTube or Facebook.
See you on the road!
MONOLITHE Nebula Septem full streaming
MONOLITHE “Innersight” documentary