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  Tragedy Holds the Hand of Hope  
  PopFaction Records  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:

Richmond, Virginia based extreme metal band Monarch is a band only a mother could love. I somewhat dreaded reviewing this release, mainly because of my lack of experience with this style of music. I gave the CD a few listens and still came up with the same impressions: technically proficient, yet not over the top. By track three, I was not interested in finding out much more about Monarch. It took me about 10 spins before I felt familiar with the tracks. While I have heard a bit of music like this, I am by no means an expert in any genre or genre specificity. I'll still need to refer to a quote I find very accurate when expressing my opinion regarding less-than-impressive musicians and bands: "Cape does not enable wearer to fly Batman costume label". [But, but -- Batman doesn't fly! I could see that label on a Superman cape, but not Batman. -- stickler Brendan]

Monarch's musicianship shows lots of potential. You have to give these guys something of a break. They did choose a popular format which breaks the conventions in direction, and bucks the notion that one should make music that was attractive to more people than less. Still, I felt that it lacked enough of what would make a listener want to sing along or even thrash their head wildly to the beat. I think that there needed to be something in the music that grasps and keeps the musical attention of the audience besides the flash of Swede-style riffage and odd-meter time changes or breaks. The members of Monarch deserve a certain level of credit for putting out their recordings. But, they may have done better in ensuring that the release was one that would impress, rather than just exist. What the hell? It's art!

The production of the EP was adequate. In critical evaluation, though, the drums were muddy, bass lines mostly indiscernible. Similarly, the guitar could be a little thicker, and the vocals were narrow and a bit too out front. Again, these details may be desirable aspects for this style. Still, the material, while technical and tight, lacked sophistication and uniqueness for its style. I have heard this done many times before, and many times it has been better. There were a few good rhythmic hooks, but none that carried the songs into what otherwise would be an area of satisfaction for me. The breaks and tempo changes could have had more attention paid to them, and somewhere they lost the impact that I am sure that the members of Monarch intended for them to have. The production may have helped here.

Finally, I felt the vocals somewhat detracted from the material with not enough real creativity and variance. Is this vocal style really a style or a solution to a lack of knowing what else to do? And, I couldn't really tell what any of the words were. Maybe some lyrics would have helped. I think the packaging lacked in areas that would have said "Check this CD out!" with its obscure design and bland presentation.

Monarch has a great amount of potential for their style. I can hear the ambition in this release, albeit ambition alone will not carry the group. Fortunately success is subjective. With their self-titled full-length release available July 24, I look to see a more evolved collection of material. I am sure they will grow creatively and hone the areas of what it takes to contend in a market saturated with very similar sounds. Check out Monarch and make your own conclusions.

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