MONO INC. for those of you who don’t know, are an alt. rock / Goth band formed in Germany in 2000 and over the past twenty years have racked up an impressive number of albums and EP’s. The four piece (Currently consisting of vocalist Martin Engler, drummer Katha Mia, guitarist Carl Fornia and bassist Manuel Antoni) have enjoyed a fair bit of homeland success as their previous five albums have all reached the Top 10 in the official German charts, and they hope to continue their run of good form with their brand new album “The Book Of Fire”. Let’s see how quickly we can read this before it’s little more than a smoldering pile of ash…and it better have pictures…
We open up with the seven-minute-plus title track and after a brief piano intro; we practically set sail for high adventure…honestly for a split second I thought I was aboard the Black Pearl swigging rum with Captain Jack Sparrow. This is some piratey shit! The song itself, while a little drawn out in places is up-tempo and incredibly up-beat, it combines that ideology of exploring the seven seas with folk inspired qualities and a rock-based core sound, which while fun and not unpleasant, IS unexpected. Goths and pirates don’t mix like…do I bury the treasure at the graveyard or scare all the children at the beach? I digress. Follow up track “Louder Than Hell” is the first real album highlight and takes a more traditional musical approach without as much of a gimmick. Rich in melodic guitar and a simple yet commanding rhythmic percussion, it’s got a solid groove amidst subtle power metal qualities and a great hard rock solo, resulting in another entertaining, up-tempo offering.
Lead single then “Warriors” takes a disappointing down-turn in momentum sadly, as we get a slow, sombre orchestral rock ballad with dreary, near monotonous vocals (Chorus aside)…while instrumentally charming in places, it doesn’t do the album too much justice in all honesty. Highlights do however include “Shining Light” which features LACRIMOSA vocalist Tilo Wolff…and it’s a shiny black slab of gothic tinged alt. rock, combining a deeper vocal and harmonic, choir-esque background singing. This is continued with “The Last Crusade” which really ups the ante with it’s incredibly SISTERS OF MERCY inspired intro and slick presentation. This track is infectious as all hell, from the vocal hooks in the chorus to the borderline sexual guitar solo, the book of fire is scorching here. Elsewhere “Right For The Devil”, which features German medieval metal outfit TANZWUT continues a similar standard of simple yet catchy alternative rock…slower in pace maybe but it’s a got a great bass-line and with that comes a certain swagger which is impossible to dislike.
The rest of the album trudges along fairly well without any real complaints, resulting in a solid overall listen, as portions of it will appeal to quite a broad spectrum of alternative music fans. Granted it’s not the all-out Goth-rock record I was expecting, seeing as THE 69 EYES were mentioned in the 'FFO' section of the press-kit, but I can admit I’m not disappointed. “The Book Of Fire” is itself only the latest chapter in Mono Inc.’s storied career to date, and it’s safe to say that these flames aren’t dying anytime soon. A record worth checking out this.