Ad Infinitum - Chapter I: Monarchy review
|Album:||Chapter I: Monarchy|
|Release date:||April 2020|
01. Infected Monarchy
02. Marching On Versailles
04. See You In Hell
05. I Am The Storm
06. Fire And Ice
07. Live Before You Die
10. Tell Me Why
Spring 2023 is shaping up to be a major season for Melissa Bonny fans; not only is the third Ad Infinitum record, Chapter III: Downfall, going to be released on 31 March, but the debut album from her new project The Dark Side Of The Moon is dropping in May. Considering I gave a fairly lukewarm review to the only album featuring her that I’ve previously covered, some may wonder why I care about either of these impending releases; since the reason that I do care is one that I’m likely to reference when reviewing both of these upcoming albums, I feel now is as good a time as any to summarize my feelings over the Ad Infinitum debut, Chapter I: Monarchy.
Prior to founding Ad Infinitum, Bonny previously fronted the folk power band Evenmore and Gothenburg-inspired Rage Of Light, and in doing so demonstrated her ample capabilities as both a clean singer and extreme vocalist. Therefore, when she launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the creation of a record under the Ad Infinitum moniker that “sounded 100% me” (a goal I can strongly identify with), the fanbase she had developed from her previous projects ensured the campaign goal was comfortably reached and exceeded. The end result is an album that I discovered too long after its release date to review at the time, but which pretty much single-handedly reinvigorated my interest in symphonic metal.
As to what flavours are found within that symphonic metal, the opening song “Infected Monarchy” has a charging energy, particularly in its chorus, that showed ties to Bonny’s power metal history in Evenmore, as did the high-octane and heavily Kamelot-inspired song, “I Am The Storm”. I suspect that this song was a major motivator in Kamelot recruiting Bonny as a live vocalist for recent touring, but outside of these two tracks, what I feel Chapter I: Monarchy took more from Kamelot than their power metal was their theatricality.
From the plague masks the other band members adorn on the album cover to the mention of Versailles in the track titles and the costumes in the “See You In Hell” video, you might get a sense of the album theme; the promotional video for the crowdfunding campaign mentions inspiration from Renaissance-era history. One could perhaps question how much of the symphonics actually replicate Renaissance music, but there is a definite something to the music on Chapter I: Monarchy that carries that vibe, and it really helps to differentiate the record from the large majority of other female-fronted symphonic metal records (it’s also something I felt was sorely lacking from most of Chapter II: Legacy, hence my less positive review of that album).
Now, pomp and circumstance doesn’t really lend itself to frantic speed, and as such, with the exception of “I Am The Storm”, the album operates more in a mid-tempo range, which allows the grandeur and majesty of the record to shine through in its greatest moments. In terms of highlights, one song that immediately stands out is “Marching On Versailles”, which kicks off with an incredibly memorable guitar melody and has such a magnetic aura to it throughout, from the orchestra-dominated verses to the anthemic chorus, while also having time for Bonny to unleash her growls in a gnarly bridge. The other song I feel rivals this one for the record’s best song is “Revenge”, a song that really dials the dramatic flair of the orchestrals up to the max in key moments to give a darkly seductive touch to its poppy verses and huge, magnificent chorus.
Beyond that, the slow, regal importance of “See You In Hell”, soulful “Fire And Ice”, playful “Live Before You Die” and passionate “Tell Me Why” offer depth to Chapter I: Monarchy in both approach and quality; the only song I’m less fond of here is “Demons”, which, while not necessarily doing anything wrong, just doesn’t really make any meaningful impact on me. As would be expected for a record that was conceived by her, Bonny is the biggest highlight of all these songs; her excellent, versatile voice is enhanced by how consistently strong and memorable the melodies they deliver are. However, the supporting cast shouldn’t be overlooked; there’s some great guitar leads here, and the riffs and orchestrals work excellently alongside one another.
As some of the bigger names in symphonic metal are drawn to excess in terms of song lengths and arrangements, to the extent that it causes bloat, Chapter I: Monarchy clocks in at a tight 43 minutes, but wastes not a second of it. My disappointment with Chapter II: Legacy came from feeling that a lot of what made this album so good had been deprioritized in favour of a more mainstream, pop/arena-friendly sound that lacked the same character, and the advance singles I’ve heard so far suggest that Chapter III: Downfall may be more of the same on that front. Perhaps, given how much the band photo for The Dark Side Of The Moon resembles the cover of Chapter I: Monarchy, that project will pick up what Bonny was striving for with this album while Ad Infinitum explores more mainstream interests. Whoever it is, I do hope that one of these projects continues the legacy of Chapter I: Monarchy, as I feel it would be a crying shame for the album to end up as effectively a one-off, considering how strongly it stands out from the symphonic metal pack.
||Written on 19.02.2023 by|
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