Monarch of the Damned

Unendlich is the project of Baltimore-based musician Michael Connors, whose debut Monarch of the Damned might come off as a tad ambitious, but also surprisingly professional. Its variety is in line with, say, the recent Abazagorath offering, though Connors does limit himself a bit more within the black metal framework.

Haunting acoustics, driving percussion and incisive thrash riffing of opener “Men Behind the Sun” get the album off to a dauntless start. Most of Monarch of the Damned is similarly centred around these rapid, thrashy chugs and snaking, spiteful tremolo riffs, with a faintly Middle-Eastern aura permeating throughout, perhaps best demonstrated by “Victims of My Desire”, “Slaves to the Illusion” and “My End”. Connors isn’t afraid to incorporate more pleasant melodicisms either; these can be heard in the upbeat tremolos of “Catalyst of Creation” or the Forefather-styled main lead of the title track. Of note is “The Birthing” which is a cover of the pre-Danzig incarnation Samhain (who I had originally mistaken for Samael, thanks to my complete disinterest in both bands). Connors has done quite an adequate job at adapting its Motorhead-ish proto-thrash into the context of the album, all the more so because I didn’t really enjoy the original tune at all.

From a production standpoint, Monarch of the Damned strikes a near perfect balance between the grit of blackened thrash, with just the right amount of clarity for the progressive leanings that Connors tends to dabble in. Though one shouldn’t come in expecting any Arcturusian operatics or the lofty grandeur of Emperor, the matured, diverse riffing on display is easily a cut above your Abigails and Nunslaughters. Said progressive leanings also come in the form of bluesy solos – namely on the title track, “For the Glory” and “My End” – but they shine most brightly on the introspective “Death Waltz”. Interestingly, it has the record’s sole usage of piano, and while it does little else than mirror a guitar line, it does hint at possible inclusions on future works.

Though many of its twelve tracks are quite solid, some efforts on Monarch of the Damned fall slightly below the mark. “For the Glory” suffers from a bit of phoned in Mayhem-isms, and the rudimentary rhythms of “Denied Suicide” are ironically almost too joyful. Connors’ rasp, though rhythmically engaging, is wholly bland and monotonous (especially when compared to the guitar work), and although the drum programming is satisfactory, it becomes obnoxiously mechanical, even campy, when the tempos begin to increase (“Catalyst of Creation” being the most egregious example).

Monarch of the Damned is a flawed album, but it is far from a bad one. It might not be incredibly memorable – to be honest, there’s little that really warrants repeated listens, and the album’s lack of brevity inevitably causes the songs to run into one another – but for a first release from a one-man band, you could do much, much worse. I can only hope Connors plays to his strengths the next time round, as the potential he exhibits here is undeniably palpable.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Joseph Y
January 9th, 2015


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