Review Summary: Tre Watson attempts to take himself too seriously. It shows.
If you've been familiar at all with Tre Watson before this release, it's for one of two reasons: either you heard about his first solo release, Lexicon of the Human Subconscious
, or you've heard of his band, Carthage. While both share fundamental aspects of djent, such as down-tuned 8-stringed guitar chugs and gratuitous solos, that make them somewhat interesting and unique, there's a big difference between the two. Carthage seems to be a band striving to be taken seriously as a "brutal" metal act with a bit of a light side that breaks through every once in a while. Tre's solo career, up to this point, appeared to be the opposite, with lighthearted takes on 8-bit pokemon themes and covers of Lady Gaga that showed not only proficiency, but a sense of humor.
Well, Death of a Monarch
seems to be the odd marriage of the two, producing some strange offspring that doesn't quite know where to sit in the now-flooded classroom of "djentlemanly" peers.
From the onset, it's apparent that Tre's trying to be much more serious with this album than he was with Lexicon
, taking on a much heavier tone from the start of opener "...And The Horse You Rode In On" that attempts to flow through the album. I say attempts
, because the flow of the album is hackneyed up throughout the 46 minute album's duration. Right after "...And The Horse You Rode In On," which has a rather good introductory flavor, comes "Blaspheme," which, while carrying the same tone, feels like a second introduction to the album right after the first.
Following this, Tre seems to slip into three modes with little variation. Mode one is the mode we began with - the heavier, more somber tone that the album started with. This mode feels like it was worked at to have a feeling more mature than that of the tracks that appeared on Lexicon
- drawing on an almost droning sound and depending on chug riffs to propel the track along. Though this doesn't always end up poorly, most of the time the mature sound seems to be less fulfilling than the sound that appeared on Lexicon
. These tracks depend heavily on rhythms that sometimes never take off, which can make them drag a bit (such as "Pluto" and "Northern Missouri"). Other times, they're good filler that move the album along on the right track (such as "Blaspheme" and "Will You Be Ready""). It's all about positioning.
The second mode is the light and bright solo-happy style that was most prominent on Lexicon
. Yes, somehow a few tracks from that album managed to bleed into Death of a Monarch
, and I'm happy to say that most of them are quite good. However, that feeling of an imposed maturity is still strangling these tracks more than when they'd been allowed to develop on their own on Lexicon
Finally, there's the most confusing mode of all. This mode seems to be Tre trying to emulate Buckethead for a duration of a riff or two, then repeating those same riffs ad nauseum. Moreover, it's a pretty bad impression that gets old within seconds. Unfortunately, there are a few tracks on the album that fall into this pattern, such as "My Nan and the AmTran," "His Name is Clover J. Fields and He Hates Babies," and to a lesser extent, "Northern Missouri."
Yet there's also a few tracks that provide a strong marriage of the Lexicon
style and the darker Monarch
style, such as "Downfall of the Stars" and "Buzzwords and Bandwagons." These tracks genuinely succeed at creating a good track and are as worthy of a listen, if not more worthy, then those in the Lexicon
mode. There's also the dubstep track "No Longer a Planet" that acts as a great interlude between "Pluto" and "Monkey Business" with the same kind of genuine intrigue we got out of the 8-bit themes on Lexicon
But the real problem with the album (aside from those in the third mode) is the way the tracks are arranged. The album flies from the establishment of a tone with its two introductory tunes and everything up to "No Longer a Planet," when afterward it suddenly shifts gears into that lighter mood for two tracks, then into the terrible technicality of "My Nan and the AmTran," then back to the Lexicon
mode, then immediately back to the dark Monarch
mode. As an album, it feels totally disconnected; a feeling complimented by a host of lovely sounding slow outros that struggle to fit the track they originate on, and struggle even more to lead into the fast or down-tuned riffs of the following track.
While there's definitely enough on here to pick and choose from, it would be hard to say that Death of a Monarch
is anything too special. If anything, Tre Watson has attempted to take himself too seriously and, as such, has created an album that resembles a man itching to crack a joke holding it in and elaborating with boring diatribe for the most part. Thus, while there are some interesting tracks, Death of a Monarch
becomes largely forgettable, leaving us with hopes that Tre will infuse his next record with the sense of humor that made Lexicon