If there’s one thing MONO’s recent tours have been missing, it’s orchestration. Whilst their older material was more of the guitar-centric Explosions In The Sky school of post-rock, their latest album Hymn To The Immortal Wind is so heavily reliant on sweeping strings and bombastic percussion that the live renditions of the newer tracks often felt lacking. Thanks to the Holy Ground Orchestra, this is no longer an issue.
A sweepingly cinematic performance, full of slow-burning build-ups and glacial beauty, the Japanese four-piece explore more melodic, classically-influenced territory than many of their peers. Yes, there’s the epic crescendos and eruptions of ferocious fuzzed-up guitar noise you’d expect from the genre, but there’s compositional depth to the soft-loud dynamics, augmented by the 24-piece orchestra whose contributions add warmth and gravitas to proceedings. True, there’s not much subtlety on offer, but in terms of beauty and goosebump-inducing intensity, it’s difficult to fault them.
It’s just a shame they don’t make more of the visual side of things. Of course it’s ultimately about the music, but when you have the band kneeling on the floor, obscured to all but those by the barrier (or on the balcony), and an orchestra hidden behind stacks of monitors, a little visual sparkle wouldn’t go amiss.
Koko’s absurdly oversized disco ball is utilised well on occasion, but some projections or a light show would make the performance more immersive. There’s also a disappointing lack of volume for the first couple of songs, although this complaint is more than rectified by the time the stupendously, gloriously overblown coda of ‘Everlasting Light’ wrecks our collective ears.
Nevertheless, on the whole this is exactly as grandiose and over-the-top as a MONO fan could have hoped for; a stellar set from one of the greatest post-rock bands around.