Monks on Fire might be one of the more intriguing bands Missoula has to offer. The group's new eponymous debut pulls the listener down the rabbit hole of music's past, without wholly emulating any one band. The first track, "Oven Mitts," sets the general psychedelic tone for the album with spacey keyboard riffs, which re-emerge in other songs like "Priest" and "Firebreathing Nuns."
Aside from that consistent keyboard thread, the group meanders into all sorts of soundscapes. On "Interlude," there's something resembling Golden Earring meets the Moody Blues meets the Fireballs of Freedom. That classic rock sound churned with a hint of full-throttle dirty rock gets even more interesting when guitarist Michael Richter belts out some high-octane blues vocals on "Strong Arm of the Devil." "Numan's Lament" delves into creepy carnival and gothic pirate territory and then veers into a dramatic salsa vein—something you'd listen to while drinking a piña colada on a windy, remote beach. "Mutiny" is what would happen if Fugazi played "Waiting Room" at a free jazz club.
That about covers it, I guess. Every song is weird in its own way, as if Monks on Fire decided to make each track its own fierce character. The album isn't really cohesive, and sometimes the instrumentals seem like they're about to tumble over each other and fall apart, but maybe that's part of the charm. A little more focus and honing wouldn't hurt. Still, what's fantastic about this album—and Monks on Fire in general—is the sheer audacity to be something different than what you hear on an indie rock Top Ten list. In fact, these musicians probably would never make one of those lists. They're just enough on the outskirts, eluding categorization in an almost frustrating way. I wish more bands would take that kind of risk.