Starting out with fairly simplistic guitar riffs and double-bass pedals for their first track “Lipstick”, Monarch’s lead singer Dan sounds almost too grizzled to be effectual. “Lipstick” is only three and a half minutes long but the only thing that stands out in the slightest for me has to be the guitar noodling that marks the mid-point of the disc. The second chunk of guitar work on “Lipstick” is much too chaotic and scattered to impress, and Joel’s drumming only complicates matters, splashing and spraying drums without any rhyme or reason. Moving into the land of spoken-out vocals in between the screeched-out fare that was common in the first track, “Promises Whispered” is much a play on the same formula that underwhelmed the first time. Some of the progressive elements and hair-metal licks of the third track, “Let The Ruin Rise” actually get one’s attention, but Gabe’s guitar work tails off for an uncomfortable amount of time.
The second half of “Tragedy Holds The Hand of Hope” starts out with “Messiah”, which is essentially another minor alteration to the played formula that dominates the disc. One thing positive that can be said about Monarch is that the mastering and production on this album is great, and in itself does not provide any excuses for the band. However, everything seems a mite too mechanical on this disc and as a result, everything has its place, even if it is a very confusing and out-of-place type of place. The fuzzy distortion of Gabe’s guitar threaten to engulf Dan’s vocals and do actually cover all of Joel’s drums excepting the high hats and the double-bass. Monarch’s “Tragedy Holds The Hand of Hope” is valuable in the sense that it shows what can happen if a band attempts to rely too much on their technical skill and not enough with the creation of guitar lines and drum beats that will attach themselves permanently to the minds and hearts of their listener base.
Perhaps Monarch plays a much more vibrant live show than the band that is captured on this disc, but as I see it the status quo prevalent on this disc is not impressive enough for me to even scrounge up the change to see these kids play. Even trying to incorporate a ska-styled (but only in form) tempo to the guitar lines on the last track “When Blackness Sweeps” does not help in creating a disc that sufficiently compels or excites.
Top Track: When Blackness Sweeps
Monarch – Tragedy Holds The Hand of Hope / 2004 Pop Faction / http://www.popfaction.com / Reviewed 14 February 2005