A little research indicates that “Tetragrammaton” is a four-letter transliteration meaning “God” essentially. So for Dutch entity The Monolith Deathcult (TMDC from here on in) to name their latest hour of death metal destruction after such a concept must mean the content within spreads it influence over all creation. While perhaps not as omnipotent as “god”, Tetragrammaton is worthy of a certain degree of reverence.
TMDC is Sjoerd Visch (drums), Michiel Dekker (guitar, vocals), Carsten Altena (keys, samples), Robin Kok (vocals, bass) and Ivo Hilgenkamp (guitars). This quintet lays down a punishing brand of death metal littered with a number of quirks moving it beyond the realm of “typical”. Samples, synths, strings, horns and keyboards add a measure of substance to the sound, making it larger than it may appear.
Opener ‘God Amongst Insects’ sets the scene with brutal death metal riffage, destructive drums, dramatic solos and guttural vocals. All that, plus the orchestral touches found throughout. It’s here we’re also introduced to the thematic elements present in the form of struggle. References to Unicron and energons lead the listener to the conclusion that it is indeed Optimus Prime, or rather Orion Pax (do your research) narrating at various intervals. But not every track follows a storyline based on the greater Transformers universe.
‘Human Wave Attack’, ‘Qasr’ and ‘Asimlu!!’ speak about conflict new and old in the Middle East, both from the defensive and offensive point of view. In these places, the orchestral accompaniment meshes with Middle Eastern melodies. ‘Drugs, Thugs, and Machetes’ takes on the Rwandan genocide with tribal beats, Soulfly-like groove and chants of “Black power! Hutu power!” Ominous synths resonate on the track like a curse descending amidst blistering solos. And there’s even an MLK Jr. sample! What’s more, ‘Todesnact von Stammheim’ is sung entirely in German. Regardless of language, “Communism” is universally understood. TMDC is all over the map!
In pulling from other genres, TMDC are not afraid to break the mould of what’s considered proper in a genre as mired in tradition as death metal. It’s refreshing to hear those techno-beats and hard-techno screams, orchestral flourishes and narration. Tetragrammaton is modern in terms of speed and brutality but those other aspects give it a sense of agelessness.
Although TMDC covers some serious history, it’s not all serious business. One must admit that some of the story lines outside the documented conflicts are far reaching, but that’s all part of the appeal. Go read some other press and see how much of a juxtaposition there is between the way TMDC present themselves and a track like ‘Human Wave Attack’. Oh, and there’s some dead space at the end of ‘Asimlu!!’ but keep listening. It’s hilarious.