It’s rare for a debut album to arrive almost five years after a band’s start. Yet, Dark Prophet Tongueless Monk’s latest record Insides has arrived perfectly on time.
With only five tracks, Insides clocks in at just over 36 minutes from start to finish, with every second of music perfectly in place. “Not Like the Other Kind,” the opening track, sets the stage for the four songs that follow. Holding true to the dark, eerily melodic landscape of sound the band has come to master, the music begins with a bright, seemingly joyful progression. Then, it drops. Minor chords strum through a simple melody, with fat thumps of booming drums laying down the groundwork. Instantly, layer crawls on top of layer of sound, until, like a sunrise, the track bursts forth with a heavy drone. “Not Like the Other Kind” blends two contrasting ideas — one of light, playfulness, with heavy, modulated undertones that emanate in giant sweeping strokes. Among layers of guitars, keyboards and percussion, the track carries a deeper meaning for lead singer and songwriter Jacob Leonard.
“I have problems with genres,” Leonard said. “I hate putting labels on things or boxing them in. And that’s where ‘Not Like the Other Kind’ comes from. It’s kind of a statement, in my mind, of individuality. Genres, when it comes to music, I just hate it.”
Where one song might sound fitting to a specific genre, such as the experimental, psychedelic tones of “Not Like the Other Kind,” Dark Prophet shifts the flow and progression, revealing the other side of the same coin as the record smoothly drifts into “Imagination,” the second track.
As guitars switch to clean distortion, lofty melodies linger atop a steady backbeat, and Leonard’s airy voice brings out a dreamy, shoegaze-y side of the band. With quick breaks of thundering syncopated hits, “Imagination” flows as smoothly, yet dreamily, as drifting thoughts. Such turns of sound are something that Leonard has been striving for in his music.
“I want to put my twist on songwriting,” Leonard said. “I try to write from deep inside me, so there’s definitely a certain ebb and flow to what we write. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Imagination” moves from drifting, sweeping melodies to a heavy, technically precise break towards the song’s final notes, giving the feeling a slalom ride along a mountain range.
The heart of the album arrives with the track “Man of the People.” Leonard’s soft voice finds full breath here, reminiscent of Neil Young blended with Father John Misty. “Man of the People” rests steady, yet drives with a clean melody, all the while lurking behind each verse are slow swells of darker chords.
On their own, each song seems like a contrast to the one before it or the one that follows, but Dark Prophet’s vision is only realized with the album as a whole.
Dark Prophet started as a solo endeavor by Leonard, with “Flower of Life,” a six-song EP he recorded himself. Leonard added drummer Dane Walters to the lineup, recording another short single in 2015. Leonard then recorded his 22-track album The Change in 2016 while on board a boat travelling across the Atlantic Ocean. But with the addition of guitarist and bassist Jared Draughon of Must Be the Holy Ghost and guitarist Caleb Gardner, it was then that Leonard felt the band’s lineup was complete.
“We definitely took the long way around,” Leonard said, laughing about the four-month recording process. “As songwriters, we have this idea or vision of a unified record. I’ve been trying to do that for a while. And it happened with this record. I hope people listen to the whole thing, not just individual songs.”
Insides was recorded by Draughon and Gardner, with the final mastering by Matt Tuttle. It dropped digitally on the band’s website on April 26, but the official album release will be on Friday at the Ramkat in Winston-Salem.
The beauty of the record is that, though it took Leonard several years to arrive here, Insides is fully realized and masterfully written album. It is the sort of album that arrives from the soul of the artist and gives light to what has been forming inside. For many musicians there is often this idea of chasing after some perfect thing, but one that will never be caught. And though Insides is a strong foot forward for the band, Leonard never wishes to stop the chase.
“These songs showed our personality at the time,” Leonard said. “This record is a statement of a moment in time. The next one might have a lullaby with only acoustic guitar on. It could be anything. But we will always be progressing and changing when it comes to the next one. I think that’s necessary in our songwriting.”