Monorail Central refuses to stick to one musical path. It experiments with different genres and, in the process, takes Milwaukee metal to new heights.
The Milwaukee-based, post-hardcore band’s writing process began as an exercise in diverse genres. Vocalist Armon Salamati and guitarists Jon Aulgur and Jasen Johnson would get together and experiment with writing songs drawing from different traditions.
The result was a blend of post-hardcore and alternative rock with metalcore influences. Unlike typical metalcore, Monorail Central’s breakdowns aren’t excessive — nor do they appear in every song. Since the group doesn’t rely on the heavier sections, the build-ups get more attention and leave behind a more lasting effect than even their heaviest breakdown.
Fans might not have expected Salamati to take this approach for his latest musical endeavor. Before Monorail Central, the vocalist was riding high on his role in the progressive-metalcore act After Hour Animals. That band was rising in popularity on the Milwaukee metal scene, performing at highly attended shows and drawing a crowd at Milwaukee’s Warped Tour stop.
But due to internal conflict, After Hour Animals broke up just on the cusp of releasing a new EP.
Salamati contributed streams of harsh, heavy vocals to the group’s music.
For Monorail Central, he’s pushing the limits of his voice — with clean singing, yelling and only occasionally falling back upon the harsh vocals for which he’s known.
“I’ve never been an actual singer,” Salamati says. “Screaming was always something that came naturally for me. But I don’t want to be an average harsh vocalist — I’d rather have more diversity and more talent to bring to the table.”
The members of Monorail Central all have roots in the city’s metal scene. Salamati and Aulgur performed in a now-defunct Milwaukee metal band called Abide By Me. Drummer Caleb Koskovich, Johnson and Salamati performed together in After Hour Animals. Bassist David Tarantino played in the heavy-hitting Bad Lads before joining Monorail Central.
Its varied roots keep the band sounding vaguely familiar to other acts that have come and gone on the metal scene. But the band is creating something new and different.
Monorail Central teased its debut self-titled album by releasing the single “Villain,” a song devoid of breakdowns and heavy vocals. It signaled that the group’s new music was going to be different from anything its members previously put out. The release of the song was paired with a music video.
“‘Villain’ is still one of my favorites,” Salamati says. “In the video, there’s a scene where the husband and wife are screaming and fighting with each other, and I can still feel it. It was an intense and crazy experience.”
More surprises can be found on the album.
For fans of heavier music who might write off “Villain” as “not heavy enough,” the album contains tracks such as “Break” and “Captivated,” with plenty of metal-inspired vocals and dissonant breakdown riffs.
The album also contains instrumental songs, such as “Northern Coil” and “Abandoned,” the latter featuring an overlaying sound clip from an emotional moment in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. These tracks serve as suspenseful buildups into some of the album’s more upbeat tunes.
“It was kind of breathtaking when we wrote ‘Abandoned,’” Salamati says. “I just thought the sound clip sounded so perfect and, when I listened to it, we all just let out a deep sigh and had to go smoke a cigarette.”
“The Other Side” is the kind of song you’d play for a friend on the fence about heavier music. The chorus is undeniably catchy and the vocals and riffs never stray far to either side of the heavy-pop spectrum.
Monorail Central released its debut album and played its first show on the same day in 2017. Since then, the band has been making waves and opening for national metal acts, such as Veil of Maya and Of Mice & Men — both at The Rave.
“It was a dream come true for me,” Salamati says. “My first show ever was seeing Marilyn Manson on that stage.”
The band’s most recent release is a single titled “Opheleos” — a slow-burn ballad that explodes into heavier choruses and features a vocal part by Brianna Jackson of Dreamhouse.
The release followed the band’s acoustic version of “Just Know,” from its debut. It provides another example of how Monorail Central experiments with its sound.
The group is set to release a new single paired with a music video to coincide with a house show Aug. 18 in Franklin. In September, the band will embark on a tour with Milwaukee post-hardcore band American Bandit.
The breakup of After Hour Animals was rough for Salamati, Johnson and Koskovich, but Monorail Central’s music is a testament to how the players moved on, maturing and growing.
“Honestly, it was really hard at first and detrimental to my will to want to put in any work and energy because I focused so much into that band,” Salamati says. “It was there for me in a really lame time in my life and I connected to that music a lot.”
He’s come to terms with the loss of After Hour Animals. Now he’s grateful for the opportunity to create something new — with old and new friends, for old and new listeners.
“In the long run, I’m happy I got to do it all over again,” Salamati says.
Monorail Central performs Aug. 18 at "JJ's House" (address can be found on Monorail Central's Facebook page), along with These Fading Visions, Human After All, Frail Body and Reaching Everest. Admission to the show is free if you "like" and "share" Monorail Central's new music video — to be released the day of the show — on Facebook.