Beyond being just a collection of music, I’m the Reaper serves as an open diary for The Beautiful Monument. The ten tracks have listeners privy to the trials, questions, and dreams of vocalist Lizi Blanco in particular. From my recent interview with Lizi, she indicated that I’m the Reaper is a continuation of the band’s debut album I’m the Sin and its themes. Instead of struggling and burying their heads, The Beautiful Monument are fired up and facing challenges with vulnerability.
Though “Give Up” seems negative based on its title, this opening song has inspired many mini dance parties for me in my office, courtesy of its strong and steady beat. Ethereal vocal melodies couple with stuttering heavy electronic presence in “Give Up”, virtually promising to affix itself to my brain. I don’t have the lyrics in hand, but thematically the song seems to relate to acceptance of that struggle, and maybe giving up on trying to handle it all alone. I take it as not giving up on life, not giving in to death as an answer. The soaring bridge is particularly stunning, instrumentally and vocally, and a multi-layered wall of sound impressiveness is a strong place to close.
“I’m not okay, but I’ll be just fine”
Described by Lizi as “Ashes” 2.0, “Deceiver” was the first single from the album and shares Lizi’s experiences with watching a sibling struggle with drug addiction, where “Ashes” related to a different sibling. This information is fittingly reflected by the questioning vibe and attempts to understand just… “WHY?”. Attempting to get through to a loved one, the track comes with a sense of frustration as well as compassion.
Though musically gritty and tense, “Deceiver” also flows easily for the listener (cue another dance party) and comes with expansive choruses that are easy to sing along with. Thumping rhythms and a ‘teetering on the precipice’ have the song exceptionally drawing, and the multilayered feast keeps you hooked for the duration.
The heart-fluttering pace of “Burn” kicks I’m the Reaper into a higher gear and bass and drums get a lot of attention here, as do piano melodies. In fact there’s so much going on (beautifully) that it’s hard to know where to listen, so to speak. The aching bridge is stunning, easily drawing into the concept of conflict, and giving up on wearing the pain of that conflict anymore. Removing someone from your life can be the kindest thing you can do if the connection has turned toxic.
“Burn” flows straight into “Reaper”, which is a tough listen for the empathetic souls who’ve faced the death of a loved one. Guitar noise in contrast of softer vocals works well for the shock and overwhelm of hearing about the loss. The steady build of the song peaks at the chorus, where a virtual call to the heavens asks “Why’d you leave?”. Shifting between open and clear and buried sound, and lyrics also shifting from specific and intimate to broad and open to interpretation, “Reaper” is something that the grieving can make themselves at home in. Throughout the song, I feel a desire to ‘let go’, yet also a desire to hold their lost loved one as close as possible.
As Lizi shared with me, “Kintsugi” relates to former band member Shelby Ouston and her bout with serious illness (referring to the Japanese approach to repair broken crockery with golden joins instead of hiding the cracks). Lizi described the experience as the worst time of her life, and the song reflects the alarm, doubt, and fear of watching your friend, uncertain if they’ll live or die, while also being yet another infectious piece of music.
I’m loving the bass of this track, as well as the overarching idea of creating something beautiful and new with what was previously broken. Affectionate support is palpable at the bridge of “Kintsugi”, to be there through it, and to fully accept that Shelby has been through this and not try to put things back how they were.
As I’d expressed to Lizi in our chat, “Invisible” was a standout to me on my first listen through of I’m the Reaper and she had put it down to her adoration of A Day To Remember. The song comes in with a streak of wildness to it, with strength from drums coming like punches landed one after the other. This rhythmic savagery coupled with the song’s melody is a treat for the ears (specifically at “What amuses me the most…”).
I take the song as hooking into being rejected or not fitting in, literally being ‘invisible’ to their high and mighty (potentially bullying) selves. Oh, and suddenly being fawned over when you show signs of success. The gang vocals and harmonies of the track are great, as is the sparkling sense of realisation at the bridge; finding gratitude in having good people in their world instead of users. Softening with something ethereal at the track’s end eases us into “Stay”.
I know it’s so easy to use the word ‘catchy’, but these songs are indeed ridiculously catchy. “Stay” was another song from I’m the Reaper that was released as a single, and that chorus is most definitely going to be implanted in the brains of those who’ve heard it. The song has electronic accents and altered vocals like we’ve heard previously in the album as well as a mammoth chorus. It’s thick, steady, and harmoniously full. And somehow dreamy too.
“Stay” is another song that’s close to home, referring to parental relationships. Most beautifully tender at the second verse, I get goosebumps at the idea of getting distance to get closer, and also how sparks of realisation can come most easily with the gift of hindsight. Also, any music video that includes Sylvanian Families critters has a tick from me.
Then on the ending run of I’m the Reaper, “Cursed” explores the ‘blessing and curse’ of empathy and the need to escape to survive, instead of emotionally drowning. Feeling stuck for words in describing a desire to be free of what’s felt, a yearning guitar solo perfectly fills the gaps, taking the role of heartfelt ‘speaking’ from the bridge onward.
Lizi described “Ida” as a love song, speaking about finding happiness for herself, despite never expecting it. With a fiery riffy intro, we’re taken into the story of how a quest to avoid pain rendered a heart to exist from behind a barrier.
Begging to ‘let this one be true’, “Ida” oozes the tentative state of decision; to allow yourself to fall head first into love or remain reserved to avoid a repeat of past pain. Palpable with instrumental tension and panicked “I’m not ready!”. The end feels like a decision of yes: To believe in love once again.
Slamming and fierce at first, “The Silencer” comes across as an opportunity to go into something new. Hurt and bruised, the experiences of the past feel like they’re ready to be shaken off, to reveal someone vulnerable and ready to find a home for themselves. The turning point of the bridge, with its beats echoing out and distant bell tolls, comes across like an ultimatum of being now or never to make a change.
Though I’m not sure I fully understand the reference to someone in the role of ‘the silencer’, and whether it’s something that’s soothing or oppressive (I’m guessing it’s the former), the song feels like a laying out of all cards, for better or for worse. It vibes like another deciding point and a turn toward something better. These final two tracks with their calls for help and decisions to be open feel like a fitting nod back to where we started with “Give Up”, and how derailed plans can be for the better.
Looking now at I’m the Reaper as a whole, each of the tracks lay out honestly the experiences of struggle, as well as offer a glimmer of rising above these struggles. It was refreshing to hear conversational kinds of observations of real life in the album’s lyrics along with more general statements.
As a listener that adores hooking into emotion, there’s something almost TOO perfect about these songs, that have me crave to hear more of the raw guts of The Beautiful Monument seep out… even though the polished anthemic singalongs are a pleasure in themselves. But when this album as an open diary of lyricist Lizi Blanco blatantly says that she has closed up to protect herself from pain, it makes perfect sense that we’re not necessarily going to get a full-blown emotional bleed, but more of a dipping of toes into vulnerability before closing up again. “Reaper” was a standout for me, given this perspective. I’m genuinely looking forward to see the band continue to grow.
I think The Beautiful Monument are onto something great here, with memorable, enjoyable, beautiful, and meaningful songs that listeners may hear themselves in and make their own. Musically, I’d consider this hard to fault, and any criticism would be down to personal listening preferences.
Thanks for the dance parties, The Beautiful Monument, may many hundreds and thousands do the same to enjoy your special songs.
The Beautiful Monument are onto something great here, with memorable, enjoyable, beautiful, and meaningful songs that listeners may hear themselves in and make their own. This is a roadtrip album, a dance in your room album, and an album to connect.
I would have loved to feel more pangs of emotion throughout. It was hard for me personally to hook into the songs because of this, despite them being strong pieces of music. I also would have loved to understand 'I'm the reaper' more in terms of concept.