The Monks of Mellonwah have been generating global buzz from their hometown of Sydney, Australia and that buzz is now primed to reach American shores with their debut LP Turn the People. The alt-rock quartet has a guitar-driven sound that blends well with electronic and orchestral flourishes to generate one of the more ambitious albums to drop in some time.
The band’s sound recalls influences such as Muse, Incubus and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, yet with a classic rock sensibility as well. The album is partly self-produced but also features five tracks produced by Keith Olsen, renowned for working with artists as stylistically diverse as Ozzy Osbourne, Fleetwood Mac, and the Grateful Dead. There’s a high level of production value on the album and the Monks have a songwriting ambition that demands it.
Vocalist Vikram Kaushik has a voice with a dynamic range that oozes with emotional urgency. There’s times when he sounds kind of like Kansas’s Steve Walsh singing classic rock from the ‘70s, and other times where he sounds quite a bit like Brandon Boyd or Matthew Bellamy. But those are three great vocalists, so Kaushik is keeping some strong company. Guitarist Joe de la Hoyde has driving riffs and chops to burn, but layers the songs with an expert skill rarely seen on a debut LP. Rounded out by a tight rhythm section of John de la Hoyde on bass and Josh Baissari on drums, the Monks of Mellonwah are poised to make a big splash in 2014 with this release.
Lead single “Tear Your Hate Apart” opens with some melodic synths and symphonic vocals that sound a lot like Muse at first. But then the track spins into a more original sound with an adventurous sonic landscape that blends the synths with a tight beat. Album opener “Ghost Stories” features a similar vibe with deeply emotional vocals and a wicked guitar-hero break at the end.
“Pulse” opens with a trippy oscillating synth and then builds into a dynamic rocker with furious percussion. “Alive for a Minute” develops in a similar fashion, starting slow and then building into a compelling prog-rocker with psychedelic synths in a big chorus and intense guitar riffage down the stretch. “Escaping Alcatraz” highlights the cinematic flair that the band delivers across the album, with a swirling mix of guitars and synths for an urgent vibe that sounds like it could be part of the soundtrack from The Rock with Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery.
The band ups the ante on “Sailing Stones”, adding some Eastern-flavored orchestral flourishes to create a majestic sound. The title track starts as a piano ballad, then builds slowly but surely into another bold rocker with pulsing synths, psychedelic guitar and an epic vibe. “Afraid to Die” is one of the top tracks on the album, as the band puts it all together with some “Kashmir” type riffs over a dynamic progression that has a little more sonic space than most of the album. This allows the parts to sink in a little deeper with compelling results.
It’s not hard to imagine most of these tunes sounding much heavier in a live setting, depending on the band’s approach. But there’s also an infectious melodic quality that runs throughout the album, suggesting the band has the potential to crossover to reach multiple audiences. If there’s one flaw, it might be how most of the songs occupy a similar emotional vibe and sonic space. But that’s something that challenges many young bands on their debut albums. The Monks of Mellonwah clearly have loads of talent and sonic ambition, making Turn the People one of the top releases in the first quarter of 2014.
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// Notes from the Road
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