Regardless of where you live, if you walk the streets of your city/town/village with the sun up or the sun down you will inevitably find something interesting. It might be an interesting sight. It might be an interesting place. In my case it was an interesting person that I discovered while walking downtown one evening on a relatively normal street corner. Standing in front of a nondescript storefront was a man, short of stature, playing an electric guitar. There was a good sized amp set up behind him, with the power cord running through the front door of the store. As if that weren’t enough my eyes were inexorably drawn to the man’s forehead, which sported the bushiest unibrow that I had ever seen.
Not wanting to be rude I asked this strange looking man how he was doing. The man smiled at me, said nothing in response, and continued to play his guitar. I thought he might be hard of hearing so I repeated my question. This time a look of puzzlement briefly appeared on his face, but it was quickly replaced by another smile. He also stopped playing his guitar for just a moment before starting in on another run of notes. Fortunately, before my temper flared and I said something I might regret a woman opened the store’s front door and beckoned me inside.
Clearly this woman had noticed my agitation, as without any prompting she immediately explained why the strange man had not answered my question. It turned out that no one had ever heard the man outside the door utter a single word. No one even knew his real name. The woman told me that the regular store patrons simply referred to the man as Monobrow. While no one was sure if the man was in fact mute, everyone agreed that he spoke through his guitar. Believing I had misheard that last statement I chuckled and sarcastically repeated it back. The woman assured me that I had heard her correctly the first time. Monobrow communicated by playing different notes on his guitar.
Admittedly I could not wrap my head around this new form of communication at the time. Only after repeated interactions with Monobrow over the course of the next several months would I become fairly literate in his guitar based language. In fact, I’d say that eventually we had a pretty casual rapport. Here are a few examples of our conversations.
“Hello Monobrow. How are you today?”
He indicated his happiness by grinning and doing some rapid fire fretwork which resolved itself into a pleasant major key.
“That’s great! I’m doing well myself.”
“Hey Monobrow, have you heard the news about the mayor? It makes me so angry!”
Clearly he was upset too. He mashed his foot down on a distortion pedal and performed a Townsend-esque windmill strum that unleashed an ominous power chord.
“Thanks Monobrow. I’m glad you feel the same way I do about this.”
He clapped me on the shoulder and launched into a very Sabbathy riff.
“Whoa, Monobrow. I heard from a reliable source that you went on a hot date last night. Is that true?”
Monobrow nodded his head.
“Well don’t hold out on me man! How did it go?”
He flattered me with a look of pure joy while his foot went wild on his wah pedal. Then, to top it all off, he leaned back and let loose this Hendrix-like, high pitched wail that sent shivers down my spine.
“Wow! That well, huh? That’s terrific!”
At this point I’m seriously considering indicating that I’m bilingual on my next job application.
Waveriders, thank you for joining me today. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Throughout my unending campaign of finding new and interesting music that merits your attention, I listen to quite a bit of instrumental music. This situation suits me just fine. Vocalist or no vocalist, all that matters is that the music is good. In fact, historically I get more enjoyment from instrumentation than the vocalist anyway. Thus when an album like the self-titled release from Monobrow enters my listening life all I can say is “thank you”.
Based on the nondescript cover art for this album I was expecting to hear some calm, peaceful, introspective music. What did I actually hear? Nothing short of a direct shot of adrenaline to my ears! This music is electrified, thunderous, and immediately in your face. It turns out that Monobrow is an explosive power trio out of Ottawa, Canada that came together back in 2009. This self-titled album was originally released in September, 2010. I consider it a grave injustice that I have only now discovered its greatness. Ah well, better late than never I suppose. That doesn’t mean that I can’t harbor a little bitterness. Just a teensy, tiny bit. Now let me tell you precisely why you want to hear this album.
Earlier I mentioned that Monobrow is a power trio. Boy oh boy is that ever a true statement! The three men who make up the band are Brian Ahopelto on drums, Paul Slater on guitar, and Sam Beydoun on bass. I really like how the band describes themselves. And I quote…they “developed an instant chemistry through a common love for heaviosity”. Love it! Also when listing their influences they state “yer Dad’s record collection”. How true if your dad was into some serious 1970s heavy rock! Monobrow builds their musical identity on top of the rock solid foundation previously laid by Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, Led Zeppelin at their heaviest, etc (go down the list of heavy metal forefathers). If you appreciate the music those bands produced, you will love Monobrow!
Hold on. I can tell that you have not been convinced yet. That whole ‘sounds like the best hard rock of the seventies’ statement is intriguing, but each of those bands had vocalists. You are quite right waveriders, but I’m here to tell you that Monobrow achieves a feat I don’t often come across with other instrumental bands. Namely, while listening to their songs I never ask myself what the band would sound like with a singer. Honestly, the thought never occurs to me. Reflecting on the music I believe this is thanks in large part to omnipresent lyrical guitar runs coupled with the harmonious interplay between guitar and bass. It may seem corny, but the instruments really do sing to the listener. They accentuate, croon, beautify, rage, and howl in a manner befitting the finest vocalist.
Technically speaking I don’t know what kind of equipment this band uses, but their guitar and bass tones are incredible. They sound so warm and approachable, yet heavy and intimidating at the same time. From this point forward if you look up the definition of heavy online, there will be a sound bite from one of Monobrow’s songs. Say, have I mentioned the riffs yet? The righteous, armor piercing, hammer of god riffs? No? Shame on me! Folks, every song on this album sports at least two passages fueled by monstrous riffs that I’m confident will heal whatever ails you. No really. Step in front of the speaker. Cut? Healed! Rash? Vanished! Broken bone? Mended! Cataract? Eliminated! Low IQ? Okay, you’ve got me there. I’m sorry. The fact is…nothing can help some people.
Still with me waveriders? Excellent. Now go pick up a copy of this Monobrow album and rock out! Fans of heavy rock rooted in the seventies will absolutely flip their lid! Fans of instrumental music will run through the streets screaming with excitement! Even if you don’t feel you fall into one of those categories, take a chance and listen to a song or two. I’ll be shocked if you don’t like what you hear.