Pilgrimage of the Soul is another solid MONO album. Of course that doesn’t say much about the album, or MONO really. To say a bit more, MONO are a band that often sound like they want to express through narrative; As such, Pilgrimage of the Soul is conceptual, or at least it feels conceptual. It also shows a band comfortable with their sound, and confident enough to to keep growing.
Anyway, with all of that out of the way, it’s time to ramble about the album.
“Riptide” begins soft and gentle. It seems innocent and joyous; there’s an undercurrent of unease, but it paints an idyllic image. Suddenly the song grows violent and heaving. Moments of relative quiet find themselves interspersed among the violence and terror, and the song roils and rages, and perhaps it is too late, as that’s the thing with riptides; It’s quite possible to not know you’re in one until it’s too late.
“Imperfect Things” also starts soft, though it feels more like something trying to reconcile an occurrence with a realisation. Eventually thick bass, percussion and guitar come in and travel some sort of wide space with a steady, pumping beat and a strict focus. MONO push on and move closer to something, then disappear into the loop that started the song off. “Imperfect Things” carries a sense of aggression, but it doesn’t rage in the way that “Riptide” does. Instead, it turns it into something seemingly more moody, directed and revealing.
“Heaven in a Wild Flower” seems more reflective and is much calmer than the prior-two songs. Throughout there’s a fantastic use of space to let sounds linger beyond their end, creating a sense of tenderness. Eventually strings and brass rise up, adding to the piece’s breadth and beauty, before settling down and relaxing. The space is still there and it helps to ease the song into silence.
In a way “To See a World” is an oddity as it seems to indicate a swing back to liveliness. It’s more “rock” than “Heaven…” and has this rolling, tense thing going on; it feels almost like dancing and it flows really well. However, it seems to function more as a swerve as “Innocence” – at least in terms of sound – follows “Heaven…” more obviously. Perhaps that was the intention; to disrupt a perceived natural flow. It’s also possible that “Heaven…”, “To See a World” and “Innocence” function together through the contrast.
Speaking of, “Innocence” is peaceful, seemingly fragile and gentle, even when it gets lively. It also feels like an outpouring of emotion. Among the space are occasional bursts of sound, and perhaps it is a mourning. It rises and falls with as much drama as necessary and stays concise throughout. The song closes with a passage that seemingly references “Heaven…”. It feels like a reflection before moving forward.
“The Auguries” returns to tension and pressure, establishing a sense of urgency early on. As a display of showing how each member of MONO works together and why they work together well, this is a great piece. There’s growth and change only when required and everyone layers themselves without playing over each other. They let the piece go heavily into the dramatic, but they hold back just enough to prevent it from losing its shape. At the end it seems like one of the guitars is crying, or at least vetting; it’s a big moment, but it’s not victorious. Of course a lot of MONO’s music is usable as an argument for their ability. That said, it really shines here.
“Hold Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand” is where Pilgrimage of the Soul puts its massive climax. It starts as a gentle flow upon an eternal hum. Eventually gentle percussion comes in, playing on top of the foundation. It’s not long before guitar starts moving with the percussion, and it’s only a little bit longer before more percussion comes in, punctuating and flowing along with what’s already here. Eventually the guitar fills out and bass joins in; strings move in and flow between loud and quiet, emphasising and teasing out the song’s inherent drama.
There comes a moment to breathe and the piece starts building once more. It’s slow, it’s steady and it’s allowing space, and soon it becomes loud again. The sound starts spreading outward whilst encompassing something that seems so incredibly personal, yet utterly universal. MONO unleash and everything drives on forward. Like so many climaxes it is cathartic and beautiful, but it feels natural. It’s something that reaches out and connects in a meaningful way.
Eventually “Hold Infinity…” closes with controlled noise moving into silence. Rather than feeling conclusive and triumphant, however, it moves into uncertainty. It seems definitive, but it leaves a little something to linger at the end.
“And Eternity in an Hour” follows with piano and string weaving acceptance and peace. There is a sadness to it; It seems to look back over the previous songs. The strings grow heavy, lower keys mark a step of sorts and this is where Pilgrimage of the Soul draws its close; with something reflective and quite purposefully final. The album is at peace, and it rests.
Pilgrimage of the Soul is an album that you need to make time for. Sure, it’s easy enough to throw on in the background and let it go on by, occasionally picking out bits whilst having the rest fade into the background, but there’s a lot missed as much of it, like previous MONO endeavours, comes through when listening.
I don’t think I’ve done much to argue in its favour here; all I’ve done is describe the songs as best I can. What I can say, however, is that, whilst in a way demanding, once it clicks Pilgrimage of the Soul becomes a gripping experience.
Pilgrimage of the Soul is available here.