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One of the strengths of instrumental music is its malleability. We hang a lot of baggage on vocals, not only are singers a commonly cited reason for a band not connecting with people, but the style of vocals, lyrical content and personality of a vocalist can serve as a shorthand for the music’s intended audience. Instrumental acts are harder to pin down, without a recognizable musical “face” they can adapt to fit into a wider range of contexts.

Mono are patently not a metal band. Even at its heaviest and most abrasive, their music draws more from the well of Sonic Youth than Slayer. Still, their sweeping sense of melody and deafening live performances (seriously, the climax of “Lost Snow” sounds like getting sucked into a jet engine) make them a compelling, if odd, fit for the heavy metal crowd. A decade back they toured with High On Fire and despite having little in common with Matt Pike & co the bill still made an intuitive kind of sense. They were two bands pushing their amps to the limits to make overwhelming, transportive music. All of the other baggage didn’t apply.

Of course not everyone “got it.” I remember one older New York metal dude getting real antsy during one of Mono’s softer tunes, complaining to everyone within earshot and decrying the band’s lack of metal cred after the set.

To each their own. Part of me would love to hear what that guy thinks of Mono’s latest release. If “Ely’s Heartbeat” was a deep sigh, “Requiem For Hell” will make you hold your breath tight. The second half of the track, which was released yesterday with an accompanying music video, is a steady descent into dissonance and discomfort, all played at sky-high volumes. When I asked Takaakira Goto, who plays guitar in Mono, about the track he referenced Stravinsky’s “The Rite Of Spring” as a point of comparison. There’s certainly traces of that piece’s steady ritualistic rhythm. Each time the band pass through the main melody they pull further apart from each other, tearing the song’s harmony into shreds. “Requiem For Hell” might not have convinced Mr. Noow Yawk Metal Dude from before, but it would have been much harder to hear him kvetching over the screeching feedback. Like many instrumental bands, Mono are flexible, but on this song they force you to bend to them instead.

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