Another 4.5 out of 5 for Monolith July 16th, 2009

The gives a fantastic review of the new Sights & Sounds album Review of Monolith
4.5 out of 5
Reviewed by Cole Faulkner

The word “epic” gets tossed around a lot these days.  From daily colloquial slang (i.e. “dude, that shirt is epic!”) to insightful message board commentary (i.e. “dude, those riffs are epic!”), it has become one of those fashionable buzzwords that people casually spout out.  Consequently, I try avoiding the word at all costs since, for me, “epic” has nearly become devoid of all meaning.  That being said, in the rare occasions where I feel my application does justice to the word, I usually find myself applying it to albums in the fantasy-metal genre when a band succeeds in capturing larger than life moments - often in concept albums about mystical being threatening the very fabric of humanity.  By extension, I typically avoid using “epic” as a descriptor for anything under the alternative/punk because by comparison, songs about politics and break-ups are rather low key.  However, for Canada’s Sights & Sounds’ full length debut, Monolith, I feel the need to make an exception.

Despite being comprised of members of popular Canadian hardcore act Comeback Kid and power-pop quintet Sick City, Sights & Sounds have a larger than life post-rock sound completely their own.  When Sights & Sounds are at their finest, they achieve a truly “epic” feel.  I often found myself feeling as though I was standing at the centre of a great cathedral, staring up at one of humanities’ greatest achievements.  It’s the type of music that makes you feel like an insignificant spec on the face of the earth.  Am I being overly dramatic?  Maybe.  But when I use the word epic, I’m not referring to a band t-shirt featuring a fancy font.  No, this is the real deal.
Sights & Sounds succeed on such a grand scale because of their meticulous attention to detail.  At the onset of the opening track, “Sorrows,” a close listen reveals the echo of an undefined astral object hurling across the night sky.  The band seamlessly incorporates the sound of the sizzling object into the song, acting as a precursor to some larger, looming event.  It’s the perfect set-up, priming the listener for the intense soundscape ahead.  Songs like “Shudder, St. Kilda” and “Borderlines” open with the lone thumping of a tribal-inspired drum beat, from which they slowly layer on vocals, lingering guitars, and the commanding chant of expansive backing vocals.  The result is a sense of sustained escalation that draws the listener into oblivion.  Impressively, the album maintains this sense of scale and cohesiveness without exhausting a single influence.  For example, the “Un-named” hidden track finds the band drawing upon Eastern instrumentation style and delivery to close out the album.  The global influences succeed because of their subtly - they are not imitations, but rather adaptations.  Too often bands input stock “cultural” sounds that come across disingenuous and forced.  Admirably, Sights & Sounds energetically channel their influences without insulting their integrity.

However, in spite of my overwhelming praise, Monolith contains a few tracks that sound slightly out of place.  “Night Train” and “Reconcile” almost adhere to a modern pop-punk/emo formula reminiscent of Moneen, and if it wasn’t for the coarse guiding edge of Andrew Neufeld’s vocals, the album might have lost its tightly bound sense of continuity.  But thankfully, despite stunting the album’s atmospheric build-up, these tracks somehow still loosely fit, which is probably a testament to the album’s expansive and inclusive nature.

At this point it should be no secret that I love Monolith.  Better still, Sights & Sounds have given me an excuse to describe something as “epic” without reserve.  The band has a rare talent for building something huge by focusing on the details.  From the sound of a comet hurling towards the earth, to the carefully planned chanting of backing vocals, Monolith’s ever growing vision will engulf you.

Category: Sights and Sounds