Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Monarch - World Without End (EP) (2013)

It's never easy to separate inspiration from the finished product. Like the Norwegian black metal bands who stand so defiantly against the presence of Christianity in their country, we can choose to embrace or deny their motives and beliefs. But it isn't always religious and political extremism that we must separate; for those who do not belong to the church in any capacity, even something as harmless as a love of your God of choice might be difficult to swallow. And despite what stereotypes may indicate, there are a growing number of metal bands, probably in the millions, that use their love of God as inspiration for their own music. The Monarch, a one man project from Vancouver, is not one that will hide what the inspirations for the name and the music came from. Jesse Janzen has seen his work garner praise from Catholic and Atheist alike, something that should, if nothing else, prove that the power of music is a great one. On his new EP, "World Without End," Janzen offers every fan the chance to "join the waves and scream your praise." Embrace or ignore the message, the music is worth the effort.

The haunting hum of "The sky rolled back like a scroll" could never been more fitting, as if rolling back to unveil the album to come. The symbolism is not wasting here, the whine of strings calling out. But it is merely the opening, allowing "Before the Throne (a multitude without number clothed in white)" to grow right before your eyes. With each fading guitar chord and subsequent crack of cymbals, it grows. But the real surprise comes in the first explosive sludge passage, seeing Janzen scream over the top of a down tuned distorted guitar. The subtle melodies, sometimes too subtle, are coated in a thin layer of screaming guitar, hammered home with each single snare hit and plucked bass string. It's in these moments, the transitions from screams to serene that Janzen best expresses himself. His versatility, though, shines brightest on "Endless Rest," a track that rises from solemn piano keys. It's beauty is in it's unwavering simplicity, but also in the fact that is unapologetically mellow. It is the final track, however, that is the most difficult to digest. On "For a thousand years (I will lay my face on the ground before Thee)," Janzen wears his heart on his sleeve, leaving behind the understated instrumental, and crooning softly over a more progressive one. It is also here that his religious dedication comes through clearest.

We are all adults; at least that is what I would like you to believe. So, being adults, we should easily be able to separate our beliefs from music. We know that listening to black metal doesn't make you a Satanist, or listening to death metal doesn't make you a murderer. Music is art. It's with that assertion that we can enjoy what Janzen is doing with The Monarch project and name, giving us something more than the stereotypical Christian rock. Sure, a heavy dose of distortion can go a long way to mask that. But Janzen doesn't cover up his beliefs with a few extra notches of reverb, or even an extra heavy scream chorus. He lets it come through without fail, without any desire to muffle it. And if your own religious views mirror those of Janzen, that adds an extra layer to this album that you can identify with. But should you be Atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Jewish, or any of the other religious affiliations, don't turn away from it so quickly. In the first three tracks alone, you'll find a great deal of depth. If you can put aside your own prejudices, for twenty some odd minutes, "World Without End" is worth an open mind.


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