When MONO began in 1999, they set out with a simple mission: From bliss to bludgeon, no matter how long or winding the path may be. Their debut album, Under The Pipal Tree, outlined that mission in twisted, psychedelic fury. Subsequent albums would see the band honing their craft, mastering their mission, and ultimately abandoning that path in favor of more grandiose pursuits. Flanked by increasingly larger orchestras, MONO performed live at some of the most prestigious venues in New York City, London, Tokyo, and Australia. MONO had become an orchestral rock band, a spectacle of extreme melancholy and melodrama. By 2012’s For My Parents, the band had finally reached the logical conclusion of that era; it was time to remember where they started, and to rethink where they were heading. Less strings? No strings? Louder? Quieter? Lighter? Darker? Yes.
Remember their song “Life in Mono” that was in the movie Great Expectations with Ethan Hawke? I LOVEDDDDD that song!!!!
Here’s the video:
The Last Dawn and Rays of Darkness are a pair of new albums by MONO. Recorded simultaneously yet conceptually and creatively disparate, the two act as both opposing and complementary sides to a story. No strangers to narratives, the twin albums explore familiar themes for the band: Hope and hopelessness, love and loss, immense joy and unspeakable pain. Those elemental parts of life and the complicated relationships they create have never been more resonant through MONO’s music than they are here.
The Last Dawn is the first of these two companion albums, and is the “lighter” of the two, thematically and melodically. It contains undoubtedly some of MONO’s strongest songs ever, drawing on an array of influences from minimalist film score to vintage shoegaze. It is MONO at their absolute purest, executing an uncanny, unspoken dialogue with each other without the dozens of stringed instruments that have been so prominent throughout their catalog in recent years. The songs are also noticeably more efficient – there hasn’t been a MONO full-length record that fit on a single slab of vinyl since 2003’s One Step More And You Die – and the album benefits immeasurably from this streamlined approach. MONO have always been masters of telling compelling stories without words. But now they’ve proven they can do it without frills, too.
Listen: MONO – “Where We Begin” from The Last Dawn
Rays of Darkness is the first MONO album in 15 years to feature no orchestral instruments whatsoever. That fact alone is remarkable given the band’s reputation for sweeping, dramatic instrumentals that recall Oscar-worthy film scores. Instead, Rays of Darkness more closely resembles a jet engine taking off inside a small, crowded auditorium. It is MONO’s blackest album ever, a collection of scorched riffs, doom rhythms, and an unexpected contribution from post-hardcore pioneer Tetsu Fukagawa of Envy. The album ends with the smoldering wreckage of distorted guitars and ominous drones playing out a eulogy to the days when MONO shot blinding rays of light through seemingly endless darkness.
THE LAST DAWN TRACKLISTING
1. The Land Between Tides / Glory
4. Elysian Castles
5. Where We Begin
6. The Last Dawn
RAYS OF DARKNESS TRACKLISTING
1. Recoil, Ignite
3. The Hand That Holds the Truth
4. The Last Rays