"Devil's Call" by MonasteryReview
I had better start with an apology: this is one of my occasional (too frequent?) articles where I realise that I ought to have written about the artist in question in "Hot Music Live" earlier. In this case, Callum Mckissock, one of the best supporters of our projects, recommended Monastery to me last year: so though I'm delighted to be telling you of their upcoming single "Devil's Call" which comes out on May 1st, I should have been a bit quicker off the mark: they are of course "Godiva Calling" winners to boot.
Just as Callum enthused about them to me, I very much liked the song. Regular readers will know of my innate suspicion of assigning musicians to genre pigeonholes & my sadness when some decide to confine themselves within them under the pressure of trying to conform to the expectations of others.
Monastery appear to understand (as indeed I do as a reviewer) that first time listeners & readers need some sort of reference point to get going, even if they subsequently can abandon the training wheels. To that end, they helpfully provide a number of qualified suggestions online: "prog metal", "prog-doom-thrash heavy metal" or "..(blending).. elements of doom, progressive rock, thrash, blues and heavy metal" depending on where you encounter them. To me, while admirably helpful, it also suggests that they find themselves difficult to pin down & that's even better.
Founded as a duo in 2020 by Liv Gardner on vocals & guitar and Josh Sellis on drums, the band is since 2021 a quartet, Josh having switched to lead guitar, & Lewis Guest on bass with Kyle Smith having taken over the drumming duties. If the first two names seem familiar to readers, then that's not surprising as they are also part of HEK (Liv playing bass & Josh guitar) whose debut single we reviewed about a month ago. Not that "Devil's Call" resembles "Couche Moi C'est La Vie" in the slightest. Clearly the latter represents Reiss Pinder's approach to songwriting & all that implies in terms of artistic integrity, while this one was a collective Monastery composition. It does however show the breadth of skills & interests of those two musicians though & that is worth keeping in mind (Liv tells me that they wanted to do "something a bit different").
In fact, going back to their self descriptions, I suppose I can hear aspects of the styles (as much as I understand some of them) in the track. I don't for a moment imagine that many of you will be familiar with the 2011 solo album ‘The Devil's Guitar' by Radiator From Space/Trouble Pilgrim Pete Holidai but it's interesting how both his instrumentals & this single equate taking Lucifer on with twangy guitar riffs: which is very fine by me. If Pete is coming at the subject from a punk/surf/Joe Meek angle & Monastery from their hybrid vision (and Massasauga will also have their thoughts on this matter, I'm sure), it's interesting how differing starting points converge in this respect.
Quite apart from the infectious guitar (and I wouldn't necessarily place that in any of the previously mentioned categories), I am happy to endorse the "doom" label & that saturates the whole cut. If anything links the song to the HEK one, it's a sense of American (gothic) as "Devil's Call" is drenched in a southern blues gumbo with the attendant visions of voodoo lurking just out of sight. Building inexorably into something genuinely frightening (that they cite the band Malevolence as an influence can't be a coincidence surely), this is a most impressive artefact (it certainly made quite an impression on me & I'd bet it will on you too). Bands from our neck of the woods who venture into this territory inevitably must all get potential Black Sabbath comparisons inflicted on them in reviews: though I'd rather spare them this, it might be more helpful to them to confront it straight on, early in their career. Yes, there are overlaps & the influence can't be ignored this far down the line (it will have passed through various intermediary filters on the way): but to me there is clear water between the two bands: female vocals are part of that, but so are the much more Americana style, the processing of the guitar sound and the playfulness in the dynamics: the latter of which is a great credit given their relatively recent foundation & demonstrates much confidence in their sure footedness as well as love for what they are doing.
Intended as the first instalment in a forthcoming EP (which will be their second, following last September's ‘Rapture'), it apparently is part of a broader concept which the whole record will eventually embrace: the next two instalments being lined up for later this year.
Apart from their many local gigs, Monastery have played in Birmingham and Leicester, and will be playing Slaughterhouse Fest in April: they are (yet) another band I look forward to catching live when the opportunity presents itself.