With Monster in the Box, their long-awaited fifth album, Angus Mohr once again brings their unique vision of Highland Rock & Roll, creating "a living representation of music that feels fresh and visceral. It is a snapshot of of the sadness, beauty, and triumph that comes from wrestling with outer monsters and inner demons... The resulting Monster is alive with rich juxtapositions and vibrant sound."
Featuring a varied mix of original, traditional, and contemporary songs, this album at once defies convention and redefines one's interpretation of what Celtic Rock is and should be.
In the words of one reviewer, "there is an interesting internal consistency among the songs without the album being thematic...each tells a story...honestly and in accessible human terms--made even more so by their being set to music."
“Barbary Coast,” an Angus Mohr original, and one of their few love songs, features guest appearances by Kailin Yong, Tamra Hayden, and Gregg Hansen, three of the talented musicians featured on Mohr Fire’s Traditions Tartan and Tears CD.
The track's exquisite layering of instruments, which includes Scott "Gusty" Christensen's didgeridoo, establishes a coastal soundscape for the lyrical narrative: ”She came out of the fog in the night on the Barbary Coast…a vision a fantasy…she came into my life then took it away with her…I remember my life before the nights on the Barbary Coast…Maybe some day I’ll go back again.”
Fiddle and whistle solos unleash raw emotion against the tapestry of musically established tide. It recedes, leaving the listener with the poignant recognition that though the magic didn't hold, hearts beat to be broken and the night touched on bliss.
The theme is continued with the more down-to-earth, guitar driven, “Shady Grove” and given a lighthearted turn with “The Clumsy Lover,” an Angus thickened pipe tune that speeds faster and faster.
Fan favorite, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” intersperses Matt's opening whistle and Paul’s vocal with crowd shouts and laughter. It is, in many ways, like being there, making eye contact, and singing along in those few seconds before the song erupts, driving fans frenzied before it.
The energy feeds into two folk-songs-turned-Angus-heavy of sacrificed youth and blood, “Step it Out Mary” and “Foggy Dew.” With the next two tracks, that social destruction turns personal. ”Darkness Darkness” begins simply with Paul’s voice, acoustic guitar, and a few notes of piano. After the third verse, it breaks out. A fevered fiddle and bereft wail complement the Angus sound and pipe solo. Then the emotion takes a gritty turn with “Hurt.”
You may think that between the NIN and Johnny Cash versions, there’s no where for this song to go. Yet, from the slow intro of Matt’s voice set against stripped-down piano, drums, and guitar, it’s clear that there’s plenty more for this song to say.
The placement of "All Along the Watchtower", the Dylan-by-way-of-Hendrix Angus Mohr staple, positions it as the culmination or perhaps distillation of all the Monster’s themes. We have indeed “…been through that/and this is not out fate.” And even as the “wind begins to howl,” dying into Byrd’s guitar solo and Matthew’s pipes, it's reborn into the triumphant celebration that is “Scotland the Green.”