• Smooth gothic pop with depth - A review of Mono Inc.'s Welcome to Hell

    Mono Inc. - Welcome to Hell (2018)

    Mono Inc. is a German gothic rock band that is more successful than ever in its twentieth year of existence. Its career reminds a little bit of Unheilig, a band that emerged from the Gothic underground scene and achieved massive commercial success which was controversially received by fans of old date. Mono Inc.'s last record to date, Welcome to Hell, hit the second position of the German album charts which marked the band's greatest commercial success. A new record, entitled The Book of Fire, is already scheduled for release early next year.

    Mono Inc. performs songs with emotional and often imaginary topics in English or German. The band focuses on smooth melodies that often have symphonic and folk undertones. Even though lead singer Martin Engler looks a lot like Subway to Sally's lead singer Eric Fish, his voice is smoother, lower and more balanced which makes for a quite accessible mixture. The lead vocals are often supported by enchanting female backing vocals provided by drummer Katha Mia.

    Welcome to Hell might be the band's smoothest record to date and invites to dream yourself far away even though its kyrical topics deal with the Black Death in medieval times. Only the title track is in the upper-middle tempo and provides some powerful drum work which makes it stand out. The other songs convince with enchanting melodies and melancholic vibes. ''Risk It All'' has a dramatic chorus you won't get out of your mind upon listening to it for the very first time. ''Flies'' is my personal highlight on the album with its soft, floating and dreamy atmosphere that equally recalls new age stylistics and smooth progressive rock soundscapes. ''Under a Coal Black Sun'' has an epic and hopeful vibe which makes for a comforting effect. Another outstanding track that needs to be pointed out is ''A Vagabond's Life'' that features aforementioned Eric Fish on vocals and his usually slightly crowing voice sounds smoother in this thoughtful ballad and contrasts Martin Engler's lower register rather well. Perhaps Eric fish should use this approach more often for his solo albums or his main band Subway to Sally.

    In the end, Welcome to Hell might be Mono Inc.'s smoothest release so far but the enchanting, melodic and thoughtful approach suits the band very well and makes it stand out. Commercial success doesn't necessarily mean that a band has become shallower and even though fans of old age might not wholeheartedly embrace this record, it has a lot of soul and is great to listen to if you just feel like relaxing. I would classify this record as a gothic pop album since there aren't many rock or even metal elements but to my own surprise, that isn't even a bad thing. The band has already announced that its next album The Book of Fire is going to be its darkest and heaviest so far, so I'm curious to see how such a transition might work out. In about half a year, I will know.

    Final rating: 75%

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