January 27, 2023 MONO INC. – Ravenblack (Album Review)
Still high off the success of 2020’s The Book of Fire, the German Goth rockers in MONO INC. are set to return with Ravenblack on January 27, 2023, thanks to NoCut Entertainment.
Twenty-three years after their inception, not many bands are still recording new music, let alone, offering listeners an extensive catalog that boasts twelve studio albums and more. For Germany’s MONO INC.—Vocalist/Songwriter/Producer Martin Engler, Guitarist/Backing Vocalist Carl Fornia, Bassist/Backing Vocalist Val Perun, and Drummer/Backing Vocalist Katha Mia—music is in the blood. This is a fact that is proven on their 2003 studio debut, 2003’s Head Under Water, as well as subsequent collections—2008’s Pain, Love & Poetry, 2012’s After the War, and 2017’s Together Till the End, to name only three.
With such a storied past laid out behind them, and the future as bright as a pastel goth, the raven is set to sing softly of its triumphant return on Ravenblack. Produced by Engler, the 11-track album sees our men and lady in pitch proudly returning to the skies to soar on Stygian wings. Part dark love poem to the uniquely inclined, part intensive workshop in musical mastery, it is adorned with raw Metal riffs, anthemic sing-alongs, and more than a handful of majestic compositions that will wow your ears off.
Let us begin by stating the obvious: these previously anointed “Children of the Dark” shine brightest when they stick to their macabre roots. Their lush, symphonic sound favors tracks such as the black beauty “Angels Never Die,” where Mia’s backing vocals create a celestial veil around her bandmates. The goth dance party “Heartbeat of the Dead” isn’t too far behind. And, despite its initial sparkle, even the melancholic poetry of “At the End of the Rainbow,” the album’s opening track, feels like a perfect fit.
Speaking of “Children of the Dark,” the titular “Ravenblack” emanates a very similar vibe. Kicking off to some deliciously deep bass, it is the outsider anthem for anyone who claims black as their happy color—and we definitely do! Similarly, in the sense of being outliers, the moving “Never Again” provides a sense of community, while “After Dark” allows MONO INC. to touch their toes to the quasi-political. Here, Fabienne Kirschke’s hurdy-gurdy provides an opening for her and her Storm Seeker bandmates to help to set the establishment on fire.
Not surprisingly, some of the finest moments on Ravenblack are on the pair of German tracks, particularly rocker “Lieb’ Mich.” A fusion of all of the above, but performed in their native tongue, there’s an authentic passion imbued into each word that brings a smile to the listener’s ears. Similarly, though not quite as strong as the aforementioned, the album’s closer, “Wiedersehen Woanders,” is a piano and vocal ballad that occupies entirely unique terrain to the rest of the collection, making it an obvious stand-out.
Then there are the tracks that, though absolutely fine in execution, lack the staying power and lyrical poetry of their siblings. Songs like the catchy rocker “Empire” and the folkloric love song “Princess of the Night,” as well as “Day of Reckoning.” Despite the bands’ phenomenal harmonies and passion for their craft, tracks such as these feel more like moths than proud corvids.
Still, Ravenblack harnesses the grandeur of MONO INC. From dancing with the dead to paying homage to the rain, there’s a sense of appreciation for the little yet often overlooked things in life. Pairing prose with the band’s superb musicianship, and Mia’s exceptional operatic vocals that complement Engler at every turn, it is easy to see why MONO INC. is so beloved. So, while their latest holds pretty faithful to their extensive oeuvre of previous material, there’s nothing wrong with giving the fans what they want! For this, Cryptic Rock gives Ravenblack 4 out of 5 stars.