Being active under 665 pseudonyms and releasing an album every single day, it makes Maurice ‘Mories’ de Jong one of Mater Terra’s most active and productive musicians. He’s active within so many different, yet somehow related, genres, from Dungeon Synth over Black Metal to Noise, you know, yet also within the cheerful regions of Doom / Doom-Death. That was the case in the past, and it is still the truth nowadays. The latter gets translated via his outfit The Sombre. And oh yes, but I do look out, impatiently, to review the debut for his new outfit Cadaver Shrine too; also rooted in a Doom / Death sphere, yet somewhat dirtier. But that’s another story.
Under the moniker The Sombre, Mijnheer Maurice released two full-lengths before, Into The Beckoning Wilderness (2019, initially released via Kapmes Records and re-released in 2021 via current label Chaos Records) and Shapeless Misery (2020, Brucia Records) (review-link: see below). In 2021, there was a split with another Dutch act, Grim Fate (also via Chaos Records), and now we can experience the third full-album, called Monuments Of Grief.
This Mexico-based label takes care of, evidently, the digital release, as well as the physical one. The compact-disc (jewel-case edition) comes with an eight-page booklet with grandiose cover-artwork, fitting to the melancholic, sober atmosphere that characterises this project’s essence. There are six compositions, clocking almost forty minutes, with titles that do fit to the concept of solitude, dimness and grief as well.
It did put some kind of ‘smile’, or whatever, on my face, to notice that this album continues the essence of the former material. Okay, I didn’t expect The Sombre performing something totally different (since the guy behind it has so many other outfits, he does not have to). At the very same time, Monuments Of Grief is not a repetition of any former recording either, not a cheap reinterpretation of the past. Somehow M. de Jong succeeds to give this traditionally-sounding material a seductive boost once more. The comparison with the ‘Peaceville Three’ (and many other acts within this specific niche) is represented too, again, yet with a qualitative result that exceeds so many bands that ‘try to’ yet not ‘succeed to’.
The melodious songs are strongly guitar-driven, with hypnotic leads, gloomy riffs and intimate melodies. Many six-string layers are mingling together, getting canalised into an infinite landscape draped in dark shades. By moments nostalgic, tragic, then again just reflective, moods of negativity and pain get smoothly translated through these multiple strings. With a well-thought balance, bass and rhythm guitars, buzzing and pushing, fortify the harmonic structures that define the spine of each hymn. Remarkable too, again, are the unique drum-patterns: not just slowly-beating designs to show a certain heaviness, yet patterns that stand on their own. They do not have a mechanical character (luckily) yet do sound enormously organic.
From vocal point of view, Maurice uses a very deep growling timbre, and with ‘deep’ I do mean really ‘deep’, like in ‘void’ or ‘abyss’. His roaring voice sounds crude and rusty, yet not of the foul or feculent kind. It does add a sense of funereal atmosphere, making the whole sound more bleak and murky. Even-though rather seldom in use, also spoken words and some whispers are used; of course, at the right moment.
Also carefully used, yet well-calculated, is the use of synths. The album does not lose itself in an overload on operatic or orchestral keyboard passages, yet these ones get used at the right time, just once in a while, at the right spot. The very same goes for the application of acoustic guitars: not too much at all (it can be quite bothering when there is a plethora of acoustic strings), yet when brought into play, it works.
Since this work specifically, and The Sombre in general, rather focuses on atmosphere than heaviness, those looking for a skull-crushing work of suspense and adventure better do not try this. Monuments Of Grief stands for harmony and passion, reflexion and integrity. But then again, it is not ‘soft’ either, for the result is as confronting as it is integer. The conclusion is easy. If you could appreciate the former The Sombre works, you will adore this one too. Recommended for fans of My Dying Bride, Swallow The Sun, Katatonia, Evadne, Novembers Doom and the likes…