In 2018 some East-European musicians joined forces under the moniker of Monumentum Damnati: Abhoth (music & lyrics, also bass guitars), Athame (synths), Shoggoth (guitars) and Nyarlathotep (drums). Somehow they did prefer to stay ‘anonymous’ (with masks), even though it is said that they are ‘known’ artists from Belarus and at least one other country from the Far East of Europe (and maybe the U.S. of A.). With assistance of grunter Mikhail Stefanovich, whom you might know from the Belarussian Doom-Death act Beyond The Darkness, they started creating some first material. But soon they recruited a ‘permanent’ vocalist, Thanatos, and also another guitar player joined, Rapsidis. Only Athame is ‘known’, as far as I am considered / concerned, but indeed, the other members remain being veiled in mysticism (even though I have to admit that I did find this out when looking for some additional info on a very specialised Metal oriented encyclopaedium).
Anyway, with this line-up – and Mikhail (or Mihail) still included as guest vocalist on a small hand full of tracks – Monumentum Damnati did record a first full length album in 2019/2020, which eventually got mixed and mastered by Ocean Of Grief’s guitar player Filippos Koliopanos (who did, by the way, some mastering studio work for bands like, for example, Rise To The Sky or The Agony Column (besides his own Ocean Of Grief) before). And oh yes, apparently he recently joined On Thorns I Lay’s line-up (FYI).
That first album gets published as In The Tomb Of A Forgotten King, and it does consist of nine titles. Besides the digital edition, there are five hundred physical copies, being a ‘traditional’ jewel case compact disc with an eight-page booklet. This one includes the lyrics, dealing with somewhat ‘Lovecraftian’ themes, beliefs, man’s mental state of mind, or the relationship of life and death. It gets released via a mighty triunity, being the labels GrimmDistribution from Ukraine, Russia’s More Hate Productions and Ireland-based The End Of Time Records.
Before focusing on the aural side, first a little word on the visual aspects. The cover concept and design of this release are courtesy of Miss Olga Khan, the lady behind the Astral Drone / Noise / Ambient outfit Cryo Depth (an entity worth given a try for sure!) and active, if I am not mistaken, in Bleeding Malice too, plus known for some excellent visual efforts for bands like Aonarach, Raventale, Engraving Infinity, Stromptha, Endless Funeral or Bleeding Malice (evidently), besides her own Cryo Depth project.
Anyway, In The Tomb Of A Forgotten King is a Doom / Death / Dark Metal adventure that clocks more than forty minutes. The adventure – and adventurous it surely is – opens with a short intro, The Shining, immediately creating a darkened, ominous atmosphere, somewhat Twilight Zone alike at first, with piano, then drums and strings, and lots of keys too. It’s not of the necrotic or morbid kind, yet somehow it does introduce an oppressive and eerie feeling. As from then on, you’ll experience a well-balanced and compelling mixture of Goth-Black, Doom-Death, Symphonic and Dark Metal, all mingled in a fine-tuned balance into a very own-faced approach. It is enormously diversified, with many changes in tempo (mainly slowly creeping and crawling forward, then again mid-tempo, with a couple of rather explosive excerpts too), structure (electric versus acoustic, spherical versus aggressive, and so on) and melody (!), with twisted and intriguing passages and in-depth fragments, a unique equilibrium in between melodious chapters and heavier ones, and including several (semi) acoustic moments, many bombastic symphonies, ultra-deep voices (besides some grimly spoken words, ominous whispers, occasional blackened throats, you know), some dreamlike solos, orchestral majesty, introvert moods, and so on, and so on.
Despite this huge variation on so many levels – and that’s nothing else but a surplus – the whole is very cohesive, making the whole In The Tomb Of A Forgotten King concept one convincing, vast journey through a mystic and magic dimension. Pieces based on piano interact smoothly with pounding parts, integer moments go hand in hand with overpowering orchestrations, bleak segments of enlightened elegance are interspersed by full-force fragments of obscurity, and this continuously goes on. After several listens, I still experience new jewels, well-written and finely performed moments of glory, depth and ambience.
Is it a mostly original album then? No, it surely is not, even though I can’t mention any band that exactly plays the very same kind of material. But there are comparisons for sure with vivacious bands or projects like Ajattara, Diabolical Masquerade, Celestial Crown, Desire, Dark The Suns, Theatres Des Vampires and Dark Legacy; even the likes of Dismal Euphony, The Vision Bleak, October Tide, Draconian and, indeed, My Dying Bride, might come to mind. The album withholds that gloomily theatrical, sometimes little grotesque attitude of the Gothic / Dark Metal scene, with an almost funereal approach of a timeless Doom-Death posture. There is a specific catchiness going on too, but it does not bother (personal note: I do not like catchy stuff, but because of the well-thought song writing and adventuresome performance, In The Tomb Of A Forgotten King is an exception).
The sound quality is extremely professional. For Black Metal, this would be way too clean, but when talking about Dark Metal, a more polished production is needed. That sound is not too clinically polished, maintaining a roughness within the string performance, and the mix pays attention to all instruments involved. It’s not just the compelling leads, the pounding rhythm and the voices that sort of predominate the whole sonic journey; bass lines, drums, synths, even some samples or (semi) acoustic string work gets represented equally and fairly.