Sights and Sounds - Monolith (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Sights and Sounds

Monolith (2009)


Sights & Sounds' appropriately titled debut full-length, Monolith is a colossal, genre-spanning, hour-long epic of experimental rock layers that confound from start to finish. Brilliant? Not necessarily. Compelling? Oh, yeah.

The side project of Comeback Kid's Andrew Neufeld, these are lengthy compositions that bear so many different musical moments that similarities are incredibly disparate. Sometimes Neufeld's grainy howling conjures up images of lighter post-Neurosis fare; when he murmurs in whispered hushes, the more brooding, pensive verses of No Motiv's "Death in Numbers" come to mind (especially in the half-acoustic "Pillars"); the explosions of overlapping guitars and moving wall of sound place even Angels & Airwaves' delay-ridden atmospheres in an area stripped of pomp and grandeur (okay, maybe a stretch; specifically, scope the intros of "Neighbours" and "Night Train").

Post-rock-type crescendos litter the first few minutes on Monolith before adventurous vocal deliveries and a more aggressive, swirling rock stance comes over "Storm & the Sun." Fuzzy, symphonic programming and ambient elements pervade its successor, "The Clutter," without necessarily delivering on the ills of such a title.

"Neighbours" has some of the best dynamics of the whole album, suddenly pounding into its first verse and then featuring what resembles a more standard and structured method of songwriting, yet with plenty of changes -- angelic, multi-tracked female vocals; fits of subtle keyboard layer; Neufeld's tense, gravelly fits; skittering, impressive stick work on the kit -- along the way. It's pretty throttling, as much as producer Devin Townsend fails to capture the full potential of those soft-to-loud transitions. There's more of a personal touch to "Pedal Against the Wind," and that's where Sights & Sounds sound best; sure, it's more easily categorized, but Neufeld sounds the most heartfelt and the song is still complex enough to be regarded as sort of a progressive-emo thing. It bubbles up in "Reconcile," too, where there's a level of angst that's totally acceptable because Neufeld's hook in the chorus is so rigidly aggro.

As unpredictable as Monolith is, it is lacking direction and a common thread, the latter both emotionally and subjectedly. But there's a few surefire standouts on the record and its sprawling ambition alone makes Monolith a more than worthy listen.