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In Mourning: Monolith (Pulverised) 

A Swedish progressive death-metal act signed to a boutique aggressive-music record label in Singapore? It can't possibly get any more obscure.

Still, metal is back, big-time, and despite mixed reviews in underground circles, Metallica's 2008 album Death Magnetic proved to be a critical and commercial return to form, seemingly re-energizing the band and the entire genre. That same year, just 500 copies of In Mourning's debut, Shrouded Divine—only on vinyl!—were released, earning a veritable avalanche of praise from the metal press.

Although incorporating melodic passages into what's otherwise vicious music is nothing new, the Swedish quintet delivers, as its new album suggests, a monolithic sound ideally suited for, say, a marathon reading of Frank Herbert's Dune novels. There are few metal acts capable of conjuring the dense, jagged maelstrom of "Debris," with its overlapping rhythms, snarlingly muted guitar downstrokes and bleak atmospheric touches, including moments of fluttering acoustic guitars and flute straight out of a spaghetti Western.

Indecipherably guttural vocalist Tobias Netzell could be singing about flowers and bunnies, but methinks he's actually obsessed with end times, at least if a devastating track like "A Shade of Plague," chock-full of cloud-carving riffs, is any indication.

Regardless, Monolith is either a beautiful way to say goodbye to a broken world, or a chance to enjoy metal done right and—dare it be said—accessibly.

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