Monarch — Beyond the Blue Sky
(El Paraiso EPR053, 2019, CD / LP)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2019-08-14
Far from the base of El Paraiso's operation, which would be Denmark, and also far from their typical sound, which would be the heavy instrumental rock jam-band sound of groups like Causa Sui, Kanaan, and others, comes this excellent five-piece band from the San Diego area that offers a high-powered psychedelic rock style more in tune with the late 60s West Coast sound (think Blue Cheer, Blues Magoos, Quicksilver, or the like) though updated with some textural synthy elements that subtly gives away their more contemporary origins, much like some of their Danish labelmates. The band features vocals on nearly every track, by lead singer Dominic Denholm, often seemingly struggling to be heard through the heavy mix of instrumental backing, occasionaly treated to effects. Two guitarists (Thomas Dibenedetto and James Upton) are often doing dual-lead guitar harmonies a la early Wishbone Ash, powered by a rock steady rhythm section of bassist Matt Weiss and amazing drummer in Andrew Ware, who I have to say is the busiest guy in the band, especially on the opening track "Hanging by a Thread." Synthesizers and keyboards are handled by Dibenedetto and Denholm, the latter who also plays guitar, while Dibenedetto doubles on tenor sax, and Upton doubles on vibraphone and backing vocals on one track. All this additional instrumentation adds to the richness of their sonic fabric. Most of the second side of the LP is taken up by the three part suite "Beyond the Blue Sky / Phenomena / Counterpart," which clocks in at just over thirteen minutes total, and concludes with the amazing standalone cut "Felo de Se" that features some ferocious guitar leads, and vocals spinning through a Leslie for great effect. For those who are familiar with the band's first full length album, I can't comment as I haven't heard it, but for folks who like their rock psychedelically saturated in an old school way, Beyond the Blue Sky is the right prescription.
Related artist(s): Monarch
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