In the metal realm, the Swedish city Gothenberg is notorious for shaping the influential melodic death metal scene of the early 90s; artists such as In Flames and At the Gates are known for possessing this so-called Gothenburg sound. Monolord, however, juxtapose this musical blueprint; they comprise of a trio who write dense stoner-doom metal with a tinge of psychedelia, more in common with bands from Stockholm. The first aspects that will be noticed upon listening to their second album, Vænir, are the slow-paced, overdriven riffs and the echoing, lyric-concealing effects featured in Thomas Jäger’s vocals. Presented low in the mix and sitting under the instrumentation, they offer a psychedelic, almost submerged sensation, suggesting an influence of the psych-rock soundscapes often implemented by stoner metal groups.
Monolord do not reinvent the wheel on this record, nor do they intend to. What the listener gets is an album of stoner doom comparable to YOB, Witchcult Today-era Electric Wizard and Black Sabbath. In particular, ‘Nuclear Death’ echoes the namesake and shares riff similarities with Sabbath’s ‘Electric Funeral’, whilst ‘The Cosmic Silence’ conjures up reverberations of the acid-jazz haze of ‘Planet Caravan’ and ‘Solitude’.
Despite musical allusions to other groups in the scene, the listener will have an immediate awareness of a trip of hellish proportions which occurs when the first notes of opener ‘Cursing the One’ begin. The introductory riffs demand the listener’s attention and continue to hold up in potency throughout, nearing the end with a distorted bass break. This is followed by a huge re-entrance of guitars and tribal drumming, which is integrated with the drawn-out, song-title referencing vocals. ‘We Will Burn’ follows as the sophomore track: wah-wah pedals and pulsating bass lines feature for the duration, ending on a breakdown of groovy sludge to rival any Down song. Interestingly, drummer Esben Willems plays the fastest snare fills here, which contradict his simple but cleverly devised playing style presented on the majority of the album. The production is masterful and balances the playing style of each individual member; the cymbals ring through without compression, it’s fuzzy without masking the riffs under distortion, and the bass is deep without being overbearing.
After all the lengthy songs of sludgy riffing interplay, seamlessly combined with crash-heavy drumming, ‘The Cosmic Silence’ offers a welcomed, short and melodic break in the album’s thread. Following this interlude and nearing the mid-point of Vænir, Monolord showcase their darker sound and lyrical content with ‘Died A Million Times’. The frightening tale of mind-expansion and nuclear fallout is perfectly complemented by a sinister passage of melodic guitar work and a spoken sample of: “I don’t much care for the time I was born into. It seems people aren’t dying fast enough these days” from the film adaptation of H.G. Wells classic The Time Machine, furthering the connection of heavy metal’s influence and appropriation of themes from horror and science fiction.  The album draws to a close with the trailing, 17-minute self-titled track. Sprawling, shoegaze-influenced instrumental passages are complemented by rain and thunder soundscapes, adding a gloomy atmosphere which are depicted visually in Vænir’s forlorn album art.
Vænir effectively showcases 6 tracks of dark, unhurried, heaviness. Monolord are aware of their influences and are not afraid to show them. They warrant justification to be listed next to fellow Swedish doom metal artists such as Ghost, Candlemass and Witchcraft, and are undeniably ones to be watched in the future. Vænir is best suited as a full album; the songs roll off each other in a cohesive manner. So sit down, put this album on and drop out to fifty minutes of cyclically heavyweight, psychedelic doom metal.