Theatrics and high drama have always had their place in rock music, both in performance and in the songs themselves. Its a genre it has always been about escapism and whilst some choose to seek that by writing songs about fast women and faster cars, others wander into far more mystical places. Mono Inc have made a career exploring such places, of taking inspiration from the dark anecdotes of the medieval era, of threading their own narratives through a historical backdrop, of tell age old tales just as the troubadours and players wandering between the inns and market squares did before them.
The Book of Fire, the band’s eleventh album to date, is set against a back drop of religious persecution, a time when the old ways were being eradicated at the hands of the established church. It tells the story of a mystical artefact, from which the album takes its name, secrets and knowledge, truth and terror. And for such a dark and otherworldly tale it is only natural that the band have delivered their heaviest album to date.
They blend a solid rock grounding with darker, gothic-infused threads but also create wonderful dynamics with lulling folky interludes and sky-scrapping metallic riffs. Warriors is the perfect example of the shifting dynamics that they play with, moving from rousing singalongs and big crescendos to lilting piano breaks and restrained vocal narratives. The Last Crusade turns Gregorian chant into stirring neo-classical metal anthems, at the other extreme Nemesis is a lullaby-like piece as soothing as it is ominous and between this are tracks such as Gods of Love, built on a grooving rock riff that Marilyn Manson would bite your arm off to add to his musical arsenal.
The Book of Fire is rock and roll as theatre but then what has rock and roll ever been other than theatre? The difference is that Mono Inc’s sonic play is based on historical reference and methodical research. It uses a wide musical palette from folk to metal and blends the past with the present, the dark with the light, the bleak with the euphoric.
Why write rock songs when you can build your own mythology? Why be a band when you can be epic heroes in your own, self-penned saga? Why indeed?