Montresor – Daybreak
  • Composition
  • Production
  • Performance
  • Freshness
  • Approval from my fiance

Production values and technical proficiency are not as important as the bare brilliant ideas often found in obscure records originating from the most remote locations.   – Mr. Doctor, Devil Doll

I’ve been saving that quote for something truly obscure, but who knows when that perfect situation will actually arise? I reserve the right to dust it off and reuse at some point in the future, though. Deal? Deal. I’m glad we got that taken care of. I completely agree with Mr. Doctor, the enigmatic leader of a very obscure band (Devil Doll) that draws from many different styles and has no definitive genre – his group has provided me with plenty of “bare brilliant ideas.”

Montresor is a four-piece from Australia, which derives it’s name from Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, a great short story about a man (Montresor) who takes vengeance on his friend by walling him in alive. I’m going to break from my typical routine and actually go song by song for Daybreak, but if you’re feeling a little tl:dr, please skip to my stirring conclusion:

Daybreak: The shortest song on the album doubles as the least progressive song on the album, with sort of an alternative rock feel to the straight 16th note bass line and evolving, simple guitar riffs that build on each other. Nice dissipation of sound to close the track, though.

Helios/Flight to the Moon: This track opens by presenting a textbook example of the type of conflict this album presents. The droning sounds in the beginning that are playing harmonized thirds (moving up and down in fifths) sound really cool, and remind me a little of Enslaved. But then suddenly a wild guitar solo appears. Let me preface by saying that I understand musical theory. I have a functional understanding of modal playing and a strong working chord and scale knowledge, and I understand that many eclectic and avant-garde albums will feature solos with lots of dissonance and very little resolution. I get it. It’s artsy. Maybe 95% of the population will hate it, but the rest of us will appreciate the spirit of experimentation and theoretical knowledge. The solo at the beginning of Helios? Those are mistakes. It doesn’t come off as an innovative section of brilliant musicianship, it comes off as a poorly played, improvised solo.

Just before the 6:00 mark you’ll hear another section with nice distorted ambiance, once again akin to some of the wonderfully textured “wall of sound” phrases heard in Enslaved. I also hear just a little bit of Rush, which the band sites as a major influence. Not surprisingly, the track closes just as it had opened: great droning sounds and drum work, bad guitar solo.

Bertrand Russell: Very strong opening, and much better effort in the guitar solo area. A twitchy, “reversed record” effect is used when the lead guitar initially comes in, and it adds a lot to the feel. Great drum work in this section as well. The drums represent by far the most consistent performance throughout the album, and I also believe they sound the best on the recording as well. The track starts at a slow tempo with a sort of funky feel, then transitions to a faster, hard rock session, which crescendos into… another crappy guitar solo. Dammit.

But wait! There’s more? Oh yes, because from 2:45 to 5:00 the listeners will be treated to a little jam session designed to feature some simple lead guitar soloing, which represents some of the best lead work on the album. It would actually be a nice section if it weren’t for the clean guitar that is playing a riff closely mirroring the bass line. THAT guitar is pushed all the way onto the left channel, so there’s no escaping it’s thin, error-filled riffing, complete with small embellishments that were seemingly always screwed up. Let’s just move on to the next track.

Medusa: Amazing track, and probably the best on the album. It opens with a sort of Latin flair and transitions into a wonderful moody section with some interesting timing, great chord structure and a great overall band performance. Yes, Montresor nailed this track, which made me start to think that our guitar problems are the work of one band member, not both. Cool drums throughout this song; I really enjoyed how rich the toms sounded. The track even ends with an enjoyable, frenetic section that could have come right out of a Mastodon album.

Longing: Not a bad track, but didn’t do a lot for me. Very spacey, with lots of reverb and delay.

…To The Cosmos: Minor key tonality? Check. Interesting compositional style paired with a solid performance? Check. Dark surf guitar riff? Check. This track sort of grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let go, which I thoroughly appreciated… until the surf guitar solo came in at 4:45 and I found myself feeling violated.

Samuel Beckett: Great chord structure in the intro, with both guitars complementing each other very nicely. Like many of the songs on this album, the changes in dynamics were appreciated, and the song was varied enough to remain interesting all the way. Hell, even the guitar solo near the end was well played. Some soft guitar chords with plenty of reverb make a nice close to the album.

There you go, my first true track by track review. I honestly hope it doesn’t happen again, because I can feel the format sap every ounce of creativity I possess as a writer. The point I wanted to make is that Daybreak is a flawed album. The guitar miscues are unacceptable, and certainly factored into the rating I gave the album, as they should. But I found myself thinking about Mr. Doctor’s quote. Was I given bare, brilliant ideas? Yes, I was. For all of the performance issues, the okay-but-not-great album production, and the sometimes novice compositional level, I connected with this album. I derived enjoyment and inspiration from parts of this album. If I was going to assign a rating on this site to Coldplay’s “Mylo Xyloto”, the 2011 Grammy-nominated album from the popular pop/rock band, I’d give it a half star. That album brings nothing new to music, it did nothing for me personally, and I received not one brilliant idea from it. The production and performance was flawless, but the composition was lifeless.

Montresor, on the other hand, has delivered a flawed, unpolished piece of music, but one that I hold in far higher esteem. And lest we forget, many teenaged European prog bands that sprung up in the early 70’s released albums with their fair share of mistakes. Such is the fate of most young, unseasoned musicians, with the exception of the true virtuosos. Montresor has even managed to compose a progressive composition that my fiance actually enjoys, which makes two total thus far. Should I listen to her shitty music in the car, or should I pop this album in and actually enjoy my life? Tough choice. So give Montresor’s Daybreak a chance, and give in to the sort of brilliant ideas that only a young, passionate progressive group can deliver.