2023 may end up being a banner year for new music and leading the charge is the January release of Ravenblack, the new record from German “goth rock” outfit, Mono Inc.

It’s become hard for me to properly review a Mono Inc. album, mainly because it tends to boil down to, “If you like what they do, you’ll like this as well.” Unlike 2020’s The Book of Fire with its almost-prog-rock experimentation, this new album doesn’t really try many fancy new tricks. “Does what it says on the tin” feels like damning it with faint praise.

Perhaps if I amended that to, “Does what it says on the tin with great verve,” it might help.

They have returned to including a couple of German-language songs this time around, which I may not understand many of the words for but hey, I don’t process lyrics very well anyway, so I’m actually on board with the change of sonic texture. Heck, “Lieb’ Mich” is one of the standouts from the album.

Out of eleven songs, all of the barn-burners are rock solid (pause for rimshot) while the trio of downtempo, more contemplative pieces along the way are more “your mileage may vary.” (I don’t hate them, I just won’t be seeking them out directly very often, if that makes sense.) For example, “Never Alone” doesn’t work for me overall but it has a great instrumental bridge section.

Nothing on Ravenblack has jumped to the top of my all-time faves list or anything, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you get greatness, sometimes you get “merely” really good. And I’m sure that a couple of songs on this record will grow on me over time as happened with Future Past, the latest Duran Duran record that left me feeling similarly “entertained but lukewarm” overall during that first few weeks of listening.

If you want some goth-y, stompy rock music, a playlist including “Empire,” “After Dark,” “At the End of the Rainbow” and the aforementioned “Lieb’ Mich” will serve you quite nicely. And if you haven’t yet, go backward through their catalog and explore. If you like anything on this record, you’re probably gonna find more to love.