"The Shore" by Monastery

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"The Shore" by Monastery

Review

Following the success of their last single "Devil's Call", Monastery will release "The Shore" on the 29th of July.

If you are a Monastery fan (and if you are reading this, the odds must favour that), like so many other thoughtful artists these days, it's part of a wider song creation context: certainly it will be on their upcoming EP (along with "Devil's Call") and they are looking at expanding that to an album, so there is plenty more imminent from the band.

In addition, Liv tells me that the tracks all tell part of a bigger story, but I guess you'll need to wait for the later instalments to get a sense of that: wouldn't it spoil things if you knew the whole narrative in advance?

Though I have no way yet of knowing where the scenes in "The Shore" might fit into the big story, the first thing which comes to mind is to applaud Monastery for their wit in putting it out in July.

I have no idea whatsoever what the percentage of seaside/holiday songs are positive (exceedingly high) but occasionally the sharpest minds not only set the balance a bit, but given the level of cliché they are fighting against, subvert the coastal-song genre. This is not about happy holidays.

Band like "Hot Music Live Presents" featured The Sunbathers have reminded us of the anxieties of going to the beach & they in turn were inspired by the similar concerns of The Marine Girls who focused in on the melancholia away from the donkey rides & "kiss me quick" hats.

However Monastery go way beyond this into territory previously visited by The Cure in their debut single: the beach is where corpses wash up isn't it? Not just creatures of the waters, but human shipwreck victims or those whose bodies were consigned to the deep after suffering homicide.

Thank you Monastery for putting the record straight.

Which brings me onto a point I made last time about their self description ("prog-doom-thrash heavy metal"): as I said, I like that it took several adjectives to approach what they think of themselves & to dodge being placed into too confining a box, but in this case, I think the doom bit comes out very effectively: is there anywhere more sombre and sullen than a shoreline after a storm, with the remnants of dark glowering clouds, the wreckage of anything that got in its way & even the sort of thing mentioned above which the sea has vomited up?

They evoke this mood very well: bringing the darkness, weight & threat of a cumulonimbus to our speakers (producer Jon of Moonbase fame does his usual excellent job of making sure the end product sounds like the creative intention) and Liv's very stately & measured vocal emphasises the apocalyptic much more frighteningly than had she gone for a banshee effect: you feel that what is coming is grimly inevitable & that no power can hold it back.

Behind this, the instrumentation make their contribution to Grim Reaper invocation, though I was interested how their methods actually varied: most elements in the song have that relentless but measured pace, yet the drums clatter along rather more furiously: writing it down like that (I've probably not done it adequately enough) makes it sound like they could be at cross purposes but in fact they work well together: a complementary approach yet one which through the difference, conjures up tension which without doubt adds something else very vital to the whole.

So having tried to describe the overall feel of "The Shore", here's a few specifics. The actual meaning is intriguingly obscure (the other tracks will surely give context): something menacing arrives from the sea & it is described in feminine terms: one assumes she is not human & not only does she consume the narrator on arrival, the latter seems frozen & unable to flee or resist.

Another noticeable feature is what initially I took to be a mid song breakdown section: except the insistent & memorable riffing (which itself summons up the idea of an assault from which there is no escape) morphs into something Eastern in flavour & this continues almost to the end of the song, save for a brief vocal coda. How significant is this?  Are we talking Nephilim or something similar?

Monastery are talented but they are also canny. "The Shore" intrigues but also seems to leave more questions than answers in its wake. That can surely not harm the chances of people unable to live with the cliffhanger and wanting to hear the next instalment for at least some enlightenment or at least another piece of the jigsaw: an approach which worked for most of the great nineteenth century novels which appeared as serials rather than the form we now read them in. It worked for George Eliot & Charles Dickens, so why not Monastery? It's a great song in its own right: incisive & engaging, but a part of a larger story, offers the potential of so much more too.

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