First review for 2018, and it’s for a band I’ve so far managed to avoid; nothing deliberate, it’s just that there is only so much music I can fit in my life before the bosses at work would object to my not appearing. Being busy, however, does mean that the arrival of Monolith Cult’s ‘Gospel of Despair’ CD here at Spenny mansions was an unexpected and welcome treat. Hailing not from Sweden as might be expected from the sound that screams of the influence of classic doom titans Candlemass, instead the band calls former textile centre of the industrial revolution Bradford home, and just as Black Sabbath incorporated the industrial sounds of Birmingham’s steelworks into their sound, Monolith Cult bring a feeling of faded historical glory into their music.

‘Disconnection Syndrome’ powers out of the gates with a surprising pace, some NWOBHM tinged riffs speeding along the misery, the clean, clear vocals of Bryan Outlaw a contrast to the guttural growls that dominate the sludgier end of the UK’s doom market, his high sustained delivery an excellent foil to the complex twin guitar interplay and almost choral backing vocal harmonies. The pace lowers for the leaden heaviness of title track ‘The Gospel of Despair’, the slow almost groove laden chorus hearkening to the sound of fellow Yorkshire gloom merchants Paradise Lost in its dark intensity, the shared heritage dragging itself further to the fore in the near funereal slog of ‘Kings Of All That’s Lost’.

The midpoint of the album is punctuated by ‘Chothia In Memorium’, a sub minute instrumental track that really didn’t need to be separated, and could easily have been the introduction to ‘Sympathy For The Living’ which it runs straight into and compliments, the titular chorus line providing a perfect vehicle for the clearly well trained vocal chords of the aforementioned Mr Outlaw, and a hook line practically designed to have audiences chanting along. All this, however, has been little more than a build up to the two crushing slabs of bleak doom that close the album, ‘Complicit In Your Own Abuse’ and ‘Death Means Nothing’, lyrics of introspective self hatred being projected from the speakers on a wave of pounding rhythms and dense interweaving guitars. I felt almost perverse that two such dour, misery filled tracks had me grinning in pleasure, but they are pretty damn glorious.

‘Gospel Of Despair’ is a fine example of epic traditional doom, the recording dials being ably staffed by Conan’s own Chris Fielding at Skyhammer, a studio that is giving birth to ever more excellent music seemingly every week. If the veteran masters of the form Candlemass ever get back in the recording studio, they will have to up their game to top this delivery; if they don’t, the West Riding of Yorkshire has their spiritual successor ready to step into the gap.

(8/10 Spenny)