monoblogue music: “Turn the People” by Monks of Mellonwah

The Australian band's newest release came out March 7.

Coming from Australia, the band Monks of Mellonwah may not be a household name in the United States, but a solid debut release may help them gain popularity on this side of the Pacific. They’re promising a U.S. tour to back their new album, “Turn the People.”

But this newest release serves as somewhat of a compilation, as the 13 tracks were all released previously as part of three separate EPs: “Ghost Stories” came out last June, “Afraid to Die” in October, and “Pulse” in January. Adding to this element is the album’s production by two different people: several tracks were produced by the Grammy-winning veteran Keith Olsen, while others were credited to the band’s guitarist, Joe de la Hoyde. That veteran touch shows, as the tracks Olsen produced seem to be a little more listener-friendly, such as the haunting Ghost Stories and its instrumental intro, or the pop-influenced Vanity. Olsen also lent a hand on the keyboard-heavy Pulse and Escaping Alcatraz, along with the track I thought was the highlight, Downfall. Ghost Stories is featured in the video below, which came out with the original EP.

That’s not to say the de la Hoyde-produced songs are bad, though. While the lead single Tear Your Hate Apart and Afraid To Die are a tad on the ponderous side, as is the moody title track Turn The People, the guitar backdrop shines on Alive For A Minute and Sailing Stones seems to me to have the potential of being a great live song. As well, the final two tracks, the ballad I Belong To You and thematic Sky And The Dark Night – Part 2 – Control give the listener a good final impression of the band. (The original of Sky And The Dark Night was released in 2013 as an eight-minute cinematic EP trilogy.) The potential is there for production to improve with experience, particularly in utilizing some of the unusual outros on this album to advantage.

Fortunately, the arrangement of the tracks on the CD doesn’t follow the order of release, although three of the four original “Ghost Stories” tracks open the album. Songs from the other two EPs are scattered among the remaining ten, with the overall 13-song package coming in at a breezy 46 minute running time. The arrangement sets up the two most pop-friendly songs at the beginning (after the brief instrumental intro to Ghost Stories) with the following six tracks moving the compilation into more of a prog-rock feel before coming back with catchier tunes and the ballad to round out the album.

In their band bio, the group notes that:

The Monks of Mellonwah set out musically not to repeat past styles, yet rather to pave the future for alternative rock. In doing so, they take the preeminent sounds of 70s psychedelic rock and 90s alternative – and blend it into something fresh and new.

In a musical era where the sole goal of pop music seems to be one of competing to come up with the most compellingly annoying backbeat, a group which pays attention to the overall composition is rather refreshing. And while the songs don’t always hit the sweet spot, enough of them do to make this a compelling album worth purchasing if you’re into the progressive rock genre. While this band has picked up critical acclaim along the way, don’t take their word for it – or mine, for that matter. I encourage you to listen for yourself.

As I noted, the band is planning a American tour sometime in 2014, although dates have yet to be announced.