"The Last Dawn" and "Rays of Darkness" are a pair of new albums by Mono. Recorded simultaneously yet conceptually and creatively disparate, the two act as both opposing and complementary sides to a story. No strangers to narratives, the twin albums explore familiar themes for the band: hope and hopelessness, love and loss, immense joy and unspeakable pain. Those elemental parts of life and the complicated relationships they create have never been more resonant through Mono's music than they are here. "Rays Of Darkness" is the first Mono album in 15 years to feature no orchestral instruments whatsoever. That fact alone is remarkable given the band's reputation for sweeping, dramatic instrumentals that recall Oscar-worthy film scores. Instead, "Rays Of Darkness" more closely resembles a jet engine taking off inside a small, crowded auditorium. It is Mono's blackest album ever, a collection of scorched riffs, doom rhythms and an unexpected contribution from post-hardcore pioneer Tetsu Fukagawa of Envy. The album ends with the smoldering wreckage of distorted guitars and ominous drones playing out a eulogy to the days when Mono shot blinding rays of light through seemingly endless darkness.