MONO: Hymn To The Immortal Wind
Temporary Residence

Listeners familiar with MONO's previous recordings already know that Takaakira “Taka” Goto, Tamaki, Yasunori Takada, and Yoda long ago perfected the art of dramatic, quiet-to-loud music-making. So what can the group's fifth studio album offer that hasn't been heard already? A fuller sound, for starters, as Hymn To The Immortal Wind supplements MONO's already majestic sound with the resources of a large chamber orchestra. Often the addition of such forces results in an overwrought and bombastic mess but that's anything but the case here. On Hymn To The Immortal Wind, the orchestra bolsters the group's epic style during the music's loud parts and enhances the beauty of its music during the quieter passages. What really stands out, however, isn't so much the increase in overall sound—that's obvious—but the gracefulness with which the band modulates through the music's elegant transitions. A decade of playing together has clearly enabled the group members to develop a fine-tuned sensitivity in the execution of their material, something that's especially evident in the mastery with which the slow passages are performed (heard perhaps most affectingly during the album's centerpiece “Pure As Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)” and in the towering closer “Everlasting Light”).

“Ashes In The Snow” offers a trademark example of MONO's epic attack, with haunting guitar melodies and string writing paving the way for the brain-addling eruption that occurs two-thirds of the way into the twelve-minute piece (an impact equaled by the later “The Battle To Heaven” whose loud sections push the group's sound to its seeming limit). “Burial At Sea” opens with delicate guitar and bass interplay that's quickly augmented by cymbals, strings, and a portentous tympani rhythm. True to MONO form, the composition slowly escalates in intensity until the climax comes crashing in at the eight-minute mark before quieting for “Silent Flight, Sleeping Dawn” where the focus shifts from the group's instruments to the orchestra's strings, flutes, piano, and harpsichord. Hymn To The Immortal Wind sounds like such a definitive artistic statement by MONO, one wonders what the quartet could possibly do to follow it up.

April 2009