As I enter my sixth year of scribbling my completely uneducated musical critique onto this fantastic website, I still get blown away by that feeling I get when I stick on a truly amazing record, having let it sit for two or three weeks prior to my review. The way the riffs hit, the atmosphere soaks through your skin for the ‘final’ time, that feeling just never gets old. All of a sudden, you’re two paragraphs deep, spewing your heart over the page for the delicacy your earholes are imbibing. Onhou‘s second album Monument is certainly one of those, the Dutch quartet unleashing one of the heaviest albums of the winter, dosing us with four tracks of thunderous sound.
I’m a big fan of SÂVER, so this was a match made in heaven from the first two minutes of the opening track “When On High”. Depraved, keyboard-soaked atmospheres, ripped asunder by ungodly riffs and wicked drums is what I desire, and Onhou wastes no fucking time at all getting to that. By two minutes and thirty seconds in, I feel like I’m Alderaan getting fucked in half by the Death Star. The band slow the hell down and rain fury upon your ears with punishing doom riffs, accompanied by otherworldly howls from singers Alex & Florian.
Monument feels very… familiar. Not in the way that they are copying others; I feel like even with the SÂVER comparison, they have a very unique palette of sound. Instead, what I’m getting at is that their music is something that is welcoming, and extremely easy to throw on and get lost to. Like a bit of nostalgia, this record, with its wild variety of tracks, has something for metal fans across the spectrum. “Bellow” is one of my favourite examples of the band’s wild song crafting, moving through a plethora of sounds, from synth-drenched ambience into some kind of proto-gothic, post-doom masterpiece. Playing it back to back, you get plastered to your seat, drowning in the fantastic layers the band piece together.
I really enjoyed the variety of vocal tones from the singers, with the howls and chants really channelling some excellent energy. One of the singers drenches the listener in Conjurer-esque vocals, whilst the other delivers more of the bellows and primal roars, punching loads of emotion into the tracks. But really, one of my favourite bits about the record? Those damn keys. They add so much to the album, giving them a real divergence from bread-and-butter doom bands. Onhou add a sci-fi/horror layer to the record, and it has been incredible to listen to when gaming. The levels on them are perfect too, pairing off equally against the other instruments to make the atmosphere so much closer and more intense.
The record’s full potential is unlocked, too, by the exceptional production. All the various ways I’ve described being swallowed by the soundwaves of this record above ring true, with Monument one that makes full use of the available soundstage and then some. Everything is so clean, whilst at the same time bringing the full force of a star to bear on your eardrums – it’s a great achievement for the band and their studio. Whilst it came out last year, this is a great record to begin this dreary start to 2023 with. Onhou are now two albums deep and they should begin to attract more and more attention with such a monster follow-up.