Monstrosity – The Passage Of Existence
Metal Blade Records, 2015
Working within an establishment genre presents a challenge to the musician: the major patterns are known, and the audience has been inundated with an abundance of bands who can play the style of the classics note-perfectly, meaning that musicians have to either add new aesthetics to attract a lot of fans, or play a subtle take on the older for those with some knowledge.
Monstrosity comes back with a record that features their trademark rhythmically-compelling death metal buried in influences from newer genres. The vocals operate too much in the metalcore style, over-emphasizing each phrase like an emo band that somehow got into Rodney King’s stash of ancient PCP. Hard rock and heavy metal flourishes embellish many phrases, solos go on too long in the progressive metal style and are too friendly with too many notes used for immediate emotional effect, and the band utilize a number of rhythmic shortcuts that lead to obvious riffs.
With those disadvantages out of the way, the listener can observe that some fine death metal pervades this record and makes use of the different positions of the scale to use power chords more like chord progressions than pure chromatic stripes. This adds distinctiveness and emotion to the songs, and represents an improvement over some of the more strictly rhythm-oriented material from the past of this band.
Especially as the album deepens and gets away from “Cosmic Pandemia,” which seems intended as a bridge between the old Monstrosity and the status quo in post-core death metal, or “modern death metal” as fans of oxymoron call it, because the band can focus more on writing distinctive riffs and less in wrapping chords around the rhythm of the vocals. Unfortunately the noodly bluesy guitar often distracts from the songs, and some feel unfinished in that they reach a point and transition quickly through budget rhythm riffs into repetition.
However, the new stylistic hybrid allows Montrosity to explore different ways of working melody into the songs and the simpler form to which riffs must fit allows for longer riffs than an all-out blast could. During these moments,on The Passage Of Existence we hear something like the old Monstrosity with added musicality more than technicality, since technicality has become sort of a dead letter now that just about every band has adopted its methods.
Although a first listen shows the adulterant stylistic elements popping to the forefront, with repeated listens these become accepted and the inner deathiness can emerge. This in itself presents a problem in that these new additions weaken the death metal presentation and make it inconsistent, which is why most of us will not purchase this for repeated listening. This is a shame, since there is a lot of good material hiding in here, but without an overall spirit to animate it, it becomes a ear-catching grab bag more than a suspension of disbelief which shows us an alternate vision of existence.