Monks of Mellonwah - Afraid to Die | Album Review | By Volume

I'm afraid of heaven because I can't stand the height. I'm afraid of you because I can't be left behind. St. Vincent - Regret

Monks of Mellonwah

Afraid to Die

One serious identity crisis.

Comments (0)
Author: on November 1, 2013
October 4, 2013

Okay, so I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to write here. Yes, I have done this reviewing thing before, but I’m having a hard time putting together any significant words regarding Monks of Mellonwah’s Afraid to Die. Thinking about this album is a sure-fire recipe for writer’s block. Afraid to Die is the second release of a planned three part collection of EPs that will form their new full length release Turn the People. Why did this Australian quartet decide to release their album in a three part series of EPs? Was it because The Weeknd found such success in Trilogy? I just don’t know, and this is partly why I feel a little lost for words now that it has come time to actually sit down and review the album. I’m not dumbfounded by anything strangely wonderful or head-scratchingly woeful; either of these reactions would be welcomed at this point. It’s more apt to suggest I’ve been bored into a bit of a stasis. Quite simply, it’s difficult to write about a record that is so devoid of personality. Instead of enjoying a brief foray into alternative, riff focused rock, we’re left wondering what identity Monks of Mellonwah actually want to present.

Their influences are there to be seen, certainly: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse, and The Temper Trap, for example. Their music is riff driven, but the band never really seems to sell any particular brand. Their guitars are polished, but to the point where even the manufactured edges of jock-rock like Nickelback seems to have more zip. The polish on the production end seems more to mask a particular lack of creative identity than any attempt to engineer a particular sound. And that’s really too bad because every once and a while the brothers Joe and John de la Hoyde intersect their bass and guitar to exciting effect. The opening riff off the eponymous first track flows with a bit of swagger, and the splash of synthesized horns gives the track a little something extra that stops it from being just another QOTSA knock-off. But from there Monks of Mellonwah never really develop anything. Part of the fault has to land on vocalist Vikram Kaushik whose monotonous, droning vocals fail to make much of a melodic or textual impact. As with the production, Kaushik sounds more concerned about colouring inside the lines than really ever taking hold of these melodies that seem destined to fulfill something more.

It really isn’t until the closer “I Belong to You”, that Monks of Mellonwah finally shed some of their shell and reveal something about what makes the band tick. It’s the kind of creative element that feels more improvisational, intuitive, and impulsive than a matter of collecting aspects that seem to fit right. Although “I Belong to You” also feels like (and is) a clichéd, contemplative closer, it certainly works far better than the other three tracks, as it at least bares some of the band’s personality — Kaushnik sounds more interested in testing his own limits; the acoustic guitar work feels unencumbered, and the slight electronic/feedback textures that enter in the second half of the song add a dimension missing from the rest of Afraid to Die. So the band does have a personality, after all, but Afraid to Die rarely braves the weather. The music always feels like it’s testing the waters, never really willing to plunge in head first. Here’s hoping they close their eyes and let go a little more when it comes to the trilogy’s third and final installment. At the moment, however, Monks of Mellonwah sound like one of those mid-level indie bands who make music and you’re never really sure who exactly is going to be listening to it.

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