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Behold! The Monolith: Defender, Redeemist (Arctic Forest) 

The gatefold by horror painter and illustrator Dusty Peterson (whose gorgeously deranged artworks have dripped viscera from the album covers of grindcore bands like Cattle Decapitation) tells you everything you need to know about Los Angeles sludge-masters Behold! The Monolith's new self-released full-length.

The image that defines Defender, Redeemist is at once futuristic (sci-fi warrior) and Paleolithic (flying dinosaur/dragon), which is the best way to describe the sonic attack of the Monolith, a three-piece that manages to sound—like so many great doom bands (e.g., High on Fire)—like an army of bloodthirsty orcs rampaging across a corpse-strewn battlefield.

You can hear the pierced and hacked bodies collapsing into the dust in the thrashy "Desolizator," chock-full of lurching time signatures and odd breakdowns. The Motörhead-long "We Are the Worm" takes Lemmy's whiskey-fueled narratives of road-beaten rock life into post-apocalyptic terrain: "We've taken this husk in chemical fire / We burrow through your mind," guitarist Matt Price screams before triggering an eerie, darkly atmospheric synth blast. (Price also plays keyboards live.) But it's the sudden spasm of prog-metal chops that launches "Witch Hunt Supreme," which eventually settles down into drone-doom mode, that'll leave you gasping in awe, like those spooked astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Legendary doom-metal producer Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Sleep) helps make the Monolith bigger, more cosmic and mysterious than it's ever been. Great alt-metal.

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