(Pop Faction Records) Enslain Magazine Volume 2, Issue 1 At first listen, Monarch's self-titled debut sounded like yet another Neurosis clone. While this wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, this impression dissolves as the disc continues and they integrate more hardcore rhythms, punklike fills, some thrashy grooves, and modern influences. Aside from the intro to the first track "On Cinders," there are other depressively harsh ambient passages, but they are just passages. There is more of a sense of songwriting than moodwriting, even though the songs lack the structure and arrangement of a typical "song." With their mixture of sounds, and tendency to alternate from riff to unrelated riff, you'd get lost even with a roadmap.
Monarch's sound could be called metalcore, but it's not the kind that mixes with emo or includes boyish singing. This is the down-tuned post-hardcore kind, the kind that tries to hide the melodic European influence underneath pounding bass lines and ugly leads. But the melodies are there, and they are at their best when they can fit those melodies into their noisy, sandpapery sound. It also helps when they blast and grind through portions of their songs; the tempo changes are absolutely necessary to keep interest. The vocals remain a constant distorted mid-ranged growled yell, and add to the consistentcy of their coarse sound. Although their sound could be more developed, and the songs could be better arranged, fans of experimental hardcore will find value in this release.