Here we are again, with another band being liberally offered the tag of ‘supergroup’ (perhaps overly so), despite that feeling like very much of a stretch. To be perfectly fair, it’s never usually the bands that deign to give themselves such a title, rather the promotional and media junket around them, but the advice would still be to operate on a case-by-case basis, if only to have some degree of reputability. Sure, affiliates with The Devin Townsend Project could qualify as legitimate supergroup material if you squint at it, but can same really be said for members of Methods Of Mayhem or Threat Signal? In any case, Imonolith give off the air of a band for whom their reputation precedes their actual output (the vaunted ‘back-to-basics’ recording approach somewhat gives that away), and it can be tough to see merit in that right away, especially if this was a brand new band without all the names attached, the likelihood is they wouldn’t get even nearly as far. It does drastically mitigate any sort of excitement for State Of Being, something which was already in rather limited quantities to begin with.
And when those conservative levels of excitement ultimately seem to be the right reaction to this album, the whole experience just feels a bit hollow. There’s really no drastically positive or negative reaction that comes from State Of Being; it’s right in the middle of the dial, sitting as a serviceable but almost entirely unremarkable metal album that, given how close in sound it is to so many others in the last twenty years that actually made waves at the time, struggles to make any sort of name for itself. That might as well be the common thread running through every facet of Imonolith, but when that’s arguably the thing that stands out about them the most, you’re kind of forced to pay attention to it.
It’s pretty noticeable across the board too, as the sound of State Of Being boils down to plenty of chopped-and-changed features that bands like Lamb Of God and Bullet For My Valentine spearheaded and rode to huge successes in the mid-2000s. The difference is that, at the time, that was an exciting, novel sound; right now, the fact that those touchstones can be so easily identified speaks volumes to where Imonolith are now, and how little newness they bring in to their particular take. It needs to be stressed that they’re at least dishing out competent recreations of the sound, especially when they latch on to low-hanging grooves on a track like Dig that are executed really well, but there’s an overall monotony when so little flair is present. It’s incredibly easy to draw parallels between Jon Howard’s vocals here and Randy Blythe’s on numerous Lamb Of God albums, and a succinct but often pedestrian recreation of this metal sound with any added flash or grandeur completely absent isn’t all the exciting to listen to. It’s not even like Imonolith don’t have talent either as far as their capabilities for slamming chugs and riffs go, but when there’s a distinct niggling feeling that they aren’t quite being pushed to their limits here, State Of Being can just plod along and start to run together.
That’s really Imonolith’s only point of contention, but it’s sizable enough to crater the impact an album like this can have. For an album as reliant on drawing from such a familiar well as this, there needs to be something to differentiate it from originators that already unfailingly ubiquitous, and in both instrumention, writing and overall intent, State Of Being can feel all too safe. It at least sounds decent for all its safeness, with sharp production that generally keeps things heavy and crunchy enough (save for the odd moment of dropout or effects that don’t gel too well on a track like Breathe), but when that’s there to augment a sound that, on its own, isn’t offering a lot to work with, the whole thing can fall a bit flat.
Really, there’s not all that much to say about Imonolith at all, but when everything that is there feels upended by a lack of innovation that has a palpable effect on how this album lands, State Of Being just doesn’t connect as much as it wants to. That’s a shame as well, as there’s a core of strength within Imonolith that can be appreciated (it certainly feels like a product that’s largely more than the sum of its parts), but that’s not being executed to its full potential. That’s really where all of the gripes with State Of Being can be compounded into; Imonolith prove they’re capable of real quality, but when they don’t trust themselves to run a bit wilder and let that potential blossom, the results end up pretty middling.
For fans of: Lamb Of God, Bullet For My Valentine, Avenged Sevenfold
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘State Of Being’ by Imonolith is released on 27th March on Imonolith Music.