As cool as it’s been to see some of doom’s most iconic figures go acoustic lately, sometimes it’s even more exciting when fresher faces try their hands at the style. Thomas V. Jäger is one such example, stepping beyond his duties as Monolord’s vocalist/guitarist to release a full-length solo album. It’s an especially interesting transition when you consider that band’s heightened melodicism on 2019’s No Comfort, and this album pushes the idea to even more introspective ends.
While it would be easy to just think of A Solitary Plan (RidingEasy Records) as an acoustic Monolord album under a different name, Jäger’s individual quirks help give it a distinct identity. The guitar work deliberately avoids any crushing stoner fuzz but has a similar air of simplicity in its execution, opting for straightforward strums in lieu of monolithic riffs with simple leads. The vocals are consistently filtered and there’s a heavy emphasis on synths and mellotron, resulting in a more atmospheric listen than one would expect from such a stripped-down presentation.
These bare-bones elements risk the potential of soundalike songwriting, but the variations in mood really go a long way to set these tracks apart. The title track does a nice job of establishing these nuances as uplifting synths are paired with somber vocals without inducing whiplash thanks to a gently memorable refrain. These emotions become especially poignant toward the end as ‘The Drone’ takes on an overbearing yet endearing twang that bleeds into the airy ‘Goodbye’ while ‘The Bitter End’ close things out on a much more melancholic note. On the flip side, the subtle shuffle on ‘It’s Alright’ probably would’ve worked for Jäger’s main band with a slight Doom Metal makeover.
Overall, A Solitary Plan is a strong first impression of Thomas V. Jäger as a solo artist that also reflects a natural progression in his work at large. Its minimalist makeup would’ve floundered in lesser hands and the hooks take some time to feel out, but the multi-faceted emotions and commitment to atmosphere make for a pleasant listen. A compact half-hour runtime only reinforces the beauty. Any Monolord fans who welcomed the softer changes on No Comfort will find this just as palatable, and I can imagine folks who enjoyed Dorthia Cottrell’s (Windhand) 2015 record liking this quite a bit as well.
8 / 10