4 out of 5
Label: Good To Die Records
Produced by: Matt Bayles, Chris Common
So if, like me – unaware of apparent Seattle-band hype as told to me by a sticker on Absolute Monarchs’ album packaging – you’ve arrived here out of interest / faith in the production works of Matt Bayles or Chris Common, you’ll find much, much to love as soon as you start on the first track – Attack – of Absolute Monarchs’ creatively titled album, 1. The dual guitar layering befits the former productioner’s expertise with capturing technically complex rock, and the balance of yelly punk rock vocals with the comparatively “clean” guitar sound works well with Common’s rawer sensibilities. Vocalist Joel Schneider might sound like Harkonen’s Ben Verellen, but that’s not a bad thing; subtract Harkonen’s bass-heavy buzz for a more directly riffable style, and you’re in the ballpark.
Track two might throw you for a loop, though: the vocals soften, the distortion lessens, and female vocals trade off with suddenly un-yelled ones. Helms Alee? Roy? Heh, yes, my comparisons are suggestive of a general “I’ve heard this before” criticism, which comes bundled with the a same snipe I’d take at Harkonen, in that the singer-as-shouter only hits one pitch and pace, making things sound repetitive without further ear-study, but Absolute Monarchs gain ground the same way they probably earned their Seattle hype: by keeping things damnedly, immersively passionate at every step. This is where their producers have certainly helped to capture that energy, and it’s this throughline of feeling that ties the various rock stylings together. And once that hook is in, the record is absolutely addictive: a punky, nervvy edge further pushing our head-bobbing, head-banging, singalong agenda forward for its pulse of 10 tracks and thirty or so minutes.