Monarch_ – Tragedy Holds the Hand of Hope EP

Tragedy Holds the Hand of Hope EP

Richmond, Virginia-based band Monarch certainly comes from one of the country’s largest breeding grounds for hardcore music. I imagine the guys in this group were lucky enough to be nearly weaned on some of the heaviest sounds around, and this influence is definitely apparent in their own music. Unfortunately, the weight of their predecessors and peers may be too much for Monarch’s members, who don’t do much to separate themselves from the pack. Although Tragedy Holds the Hand of Hope offers glimpses of what this band could be, the reality is just a bit too far askew.

From the opening “Lipstick,” it’s clear that Monarch wants to be a very technical band. I have to admit that musically these guys are fairly proficient – at least in the sense of being adept at their respective instruments. The problem is the riffs, which don’t seem to go anywhere, and the tempo changes, which are choppy at best. I almost get the sense that they don’t quite know what direction to take. They dip their fingers into quite a few types of metal, but the result just isn’t cohesive enough to have what I assume the desired impact would be. Still, since the band members do have clearly solid capabilities, these gripes are something which will hopefully disappear over time as their songwriting capabilities are honed and they begin to find their niche.

However, the biggest issue I have is with the vocals. The singer, known only as Dan, sings in a cross of a normal hardcore style and black metal-type wailer, and in the end you can’t understand a single word. With no lyrics included with the disc, he could easily be singing nursery rhymes or a letter from a bill collector for all anyone can tell. When you aren’t singing clearly enough for people to at least get the gist of what you are saying, liner notes with lyrics are a must for many potential fans. Surely if you aren’t playing instrumentals people might want to know what you are singing about, and this would give listeners a better idea of what your band is all about.

Despite these misgivings about Tragedy Holds the Hand of Hope, I’m hopeful that Monarch’s next release, a full-length due this summer, will solve the obvious problems and show off a band that has found its groove and achieved a more original sound. While the six songs here aren’t horrible by any means, I think these guys have a lot of work ahead of themselves if they want to set themselves apart in a genre already crowded with tons of new bands.