Matyrker is the solo project of Matt McDonnell. Yes, you heard that right… solo project. But don’t get the image of an acoustic guitarist wearing a plaid shirt in the corner of a coffeeshop pop into your head. ‘Emanation’ is a heavy-hitting album that conveys a story through aggression and beauty. Honestly, had Matt not pitched this album to me as a solo album and just told me, “Hey, check out this album by Matyrker!” I would have been easily fooled into thinking Matyrker was a full band and a band that I had to see live immediately.

The album kicks off with a beautiful piano intro that is quickly joined in by a haunting string orchestral sound. With the keys beating behind them, the strings begin a story that will end up being the journey that Matyrker takes us on throughout his album “Emanation”. The strings stay off in the distance as distorted guitars start pumping through your speakers. With swells of energy and power fighting against the beauty of the opening track, ‘Things That Fall’ is the perfect intro to this album. As the song fades out, you hear the hidden vocals with one single line, “Let me lead you to the light” and, with that, you’re catapulted into the world that is Matyrker.

The beauty of the first track is quickly replaced by sheer brutality of track two entitled ‘Alchemy’. Although the vocals seem to lean more towards a radio rock type of band, the chugging guitars and powerful drumming help remind that listener that this is oh so much more than just a radio rock band. Sure, I could hear this on the local metal station during one of the local radio hours but I see it being a stand out song due to the sheer uniqueness of it. The vocals done my mastermind Matt McDonnell are truly something special. Although they have a very accessible sound about them, there’s still something sinister hiding behind them.

The lyrical content of “Emanation” has something intriguing about it. If you were to read through the lyrics in the same order as the album, you are painted a picture of love and love lost but it’s not as simple as you may think. The words seems to describe the tug of war that typically goes on between head and heart when in a relationship. ‘The Answer’ seems to be a song about asking the question that we all ask when in a relationship– “I need to know if your heart’s entwined with mine”. Don’t sit there and try and tell me you’ve never found yourself asking that question late at night when wondering if a relationship you’re in is actually what you think it is or if, in reality, there’s nothing there. It’s something that everyone goes through and to hear that question laid out over such powerful instrumentation is a truly special moment during this album.

The following five tracks all seem to tell the story of a journey. The protagonist of the lyrics in this album story line seem to finally be coming to terms with the fact that this is more of a love lost type of thing. The five parts of ‘”Emanation” have lyrics that seem to tell the process of recovering after loosing the one thing that you thought was part of you. There’s sense of aggression that can be heard in the frantic guitars and drums that wasn’t present if the first couple of tracks. The beauty of the strings that had been prevalent through the opening track are now completely gone as if signify the harshness of reality that the protagonist is now facing. Although that source of beauty is gone, guest vocalist Christina Rontondo’s voice turns into the new form of beauty. With an almost reassuring sound to her smooth voice, the female vocals contrast the edge of Matt’s vocals with a sense of precision. At times, it’s like the two voices are battling it out but without the need for a winner. It’s back to that tug of war game that the lyrics of the song ‘The Answer’ seemed to pose only now each end of the rope has a voice giving the music a sense of authority.

Throughout the album, the guitars reign supreme. Matt’s technical ability is definitely something to envy. Although they have a sense of brutality, there’s also this feeling of respect that he has with the music. The notes are heavy and loud but not overpowering. Instead of fitting in as many notes as he can to each song, there’s a delicacy with the way each note has been placed. With breaks throughout the album that leave the focus on the keyboard and percussion parts that deserve the focus, nothing about this album seems to be showy and that’s a skill that not many musicians have. As the album fades out, the strings come back in alongside the grand piano sound. This closure of the album is so damn important and so perfect that if it doesn’t give you goosebumps, you clearly weren’t listening closely enough and should start again.

This album was a perfect example of balance between brutality and beauty. The story telling throughout the eleven song debut album is something that deserves to be in a poetry book that comes with this album. The fact that Matt McDonnell wrote all of the tracks, lyrics and recorded it all by himself is truly impressive. There’s so much genius behind this album that it’s hard to believe it was just one guy who did majority of the work. The producing of this album by Felipe Troncoso at Feltracks in St. Paul was dead on. Much like the music, nothing about the mixing and mastering felt over done making this album come off as a true work of passion, not just music.

Chances Of Getting A Noise Complaint While Listening To In An Apartment: 6 out of 10

At Home Moshability: 6 out of 10

My Overall Rating: 4.2 out of 5

How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 8 out of 10

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