Michał Strzelecki – Vocals,
Tomasz Gurgul – Guitars,
Filip Malinowski – Bass,
Maciej Berniak – Drums.
1. Church Of Bones
2. La Danse Macabre
3. Liber Loagaeth
4. Ferrier Of The Underworld
5. Embrace The Void
6. The Order Of The Dragon
7. Sleeping With The Dead
8. The Last Templar
It’s a tricky age to be in for any band. You’ve the vast sounds of the past behind you on which to base your sound, whilst a yawning void stretches all before you and you’ve no idea whether your choices now will reap any benefits. Can you afford to mess up in a market so saturated that no towel can ever leave it dry? Then you’ve got to contend with anyone with a keyboard and a tenuous grasp on their mother tongue spouting their opinion (and, yes, it’s great to do that professionally, thank you for asking). What’s a band to do?
If you’re MONASTERIUM, you’ll look behind you and think, “I’m having a bit of that”. If you’re finding music these days a little too new, or modern, then your search for a band with that classic heavy metal sound may be put to rest (for a time). The Cracow-natives represent an act that worships at the altar of Birmingham’s favourite sons, BLACK SABBATH. Theirs is a touch more on the “epic” side of things, with each song sprawling and winding on through their respective stories.
Whilst the “epic” quality is apparent, where it tends to struggle is in originality, though. There’s nothing wrong with wearing your influences on your sleeve, nor tinkering with the format (in fact that’s actively encouraged – how can one progress if one doesn’t try?) But what “Church Of Bones” struggles to do is to stand out from beneath BLACK SABBATH’s shadow. Were there a change of tempo, the occasional moment of brevity, or curveball, it might allow them to venture out on their own into the sun. Sadly, there’s little to discern MONASTERIUM from the band they’re aping, save for the obvious differences between vocalists.
Let it be known, however, that Michał Strzelecki has one helluva knack for eking out the most amount of drama from a song. Whilst there is a distinct feeling that there could be some fat trimmed from these, what Strzelecki achieves in the likes of “La Danse Macabre” and gargantuan closer “The Last Templar” is an overarching sense of theatre that echoes the majesty the likes of DIO and IRON MAIDEN can produce effortlessly. There’s an unconventionality about the performance, but it’s distinctive and perhaps places the band within eyeshot beyond their contemporaries.
Whilst “Church Of Bones” can feel like a dramatised retread of 70s doom, it’s not without its merits. The fuzzy guitar intro to “Liber Loagaeth” brings proceedings down for a little variety. The moody stomp and wonderfully-executed solo that sees out “Ferrier Of The Underworld” deserves a nod. But the stand-out moment is in the aforementioned “The Last Templar”. Featuring a guest appearance from Leo Stivala (of FORSAKEN fame), it settles into a little ménage à trois with power and folk metal; perilously attempting to venture beyond that SABBATH-sized shadow. A little more of that, and life will be sweet.
MONASTERIUM will find a happy little home amongst old school fans that just want to rock out with little frills. It eschews modernity for a place alongside older contemporaries; comfortable and safe. But whilst “Church Of Bones” ably demonstrates that it can ape the past, and sound like it is played with joy, it then must be judged by those contemporaries. With that in mind, it will be found wanting somewhat – it can hold a candle to them well enough, but it doesn’t burn bright enough to truly stand out and falls firmly into the “heard it before” category. Make no bones about it, it’s solid, but ever so familiar.