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Monsterworks - Malignment

Monsterworks
Malignment
by Mark Machlay at 06 October 2020, 7:12 AM

There are progressive rock/metal bands that have space opera concept albums among them – such as COHEED AND CAMBRIA, MASTODON, and BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME to name a few – but you’ll be hard pressed to find a band doing it with as much stylistic variety as MONSTERWORKS. One of the most prolific and wildly genre-bending groups, MONSTERWORKS has been creating music for over 20 years and with their latest “Malignment”, they return to the metal space adventure concept storyline that began with “Spacial Operations” in 2007 and “Singularity” in 2009. Beginning in the late 90s in Wellington, New Zealand, Jono Blade on vocals and guitar and Ian Brock on lead guitar, the band started as a straight ahead death/thrash band. After two demos, they would shift their location to London. UK during their first two albums – “Dimensional Urgency” in 2000 and “Rogue” in 2002. Soon after settling in London, the pair were joined by bass player Hugo and drummer Chris Mills and moved more into “thinking man’s death metal” or what could be called progressive death metal. Much like ANACRUSIS and STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, their albums featured outer space themes and eccentric sounds in 2003’s “M-Theory” and 2006’s “The Precautionary Principle” They would seem to drop into a rhythm after 2011’s “The God Album”, relentlessly releasing either an EP or full-length album every year up to 2018’s “Scale and Probability”

With new album “Malignment” it has been the longest wait for a new MONSTERWORKS album in almost a decade. It’s interesting that the last time they took this long with a release it was after they released the last album in the storyline. Guitarist Jono Blade even admits as much saying “this album has been a long time coming, since the band had been releasing something every year like clockwork for quite a while. We missed 2019 – sorry! Or did we? Anyway, it feels good to be back, and to take the “Spacial Operations” story further and to a conclusion of sorts”. The albums opens with the ominous “Impending Doom” that is, as its name implies, quite doomy but sounds more post-metal than death metal while still adhering to the genre, wandering through an atmosphere similar to what PINK FLOYD may have conjured if they leaned toward metal. But, right after that is “Pre-Emptive Strike” seems to take more from groove metal with its pinch harmonics and herky-jerky rhythmic changes. It’s a bit of stylistic whiplash for the average metal fan. But from the BLACK SABBATH doom-meets-black metal of shorter, more mainstream digestible tracks like “Harness the Engine” and “Eye of Darkness” to the black metal-meets-KING DIAMOND-like vocals of “Ice and Awe”, the band seems to ratchet all over the extreme metal categories.

That whiplash can be painful and off-putting for the listener that expected mostly black/thrash metal with maybe some progressive elements thrown in. The band has certainly been honing a sound all its own over the last 20 years, certainly having similarities with other acts that blend genres but still having a sound that is truly unique. Ever since learning about COHEED AND CAMBRIA and their sprawling space opera concept, albums that carry that heavy conceptual load while still breaking new ground always fascinate me. MONSTERWORKS presents an interesting sonic landscape in a sea of bands that have tried to emulate the blending of death/black/thrash metal with other genres, heavily popularized by bands like OPETH, SOEN, and DEATH. Their sound can be harsh, but you give them a chance, maybe even explore their older records and follow their journey, this is a nice addition to a story started over a decade ago but their sound has been fairly consistent for over 20 years with lots more material to get lost in.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Impending Doom
2. Pre-Emptive Strike
3. Harness the Engine
4. Post Everything
5. Ice and Awe
6. Contemplating Godhood
7. Eye of Darkness
8. Golden Age
Lineup:
Jono Blade – Guitars & Vocals
Hugo – Bass
James – Drums
Marcus – Guitars
Record Label: Eat Lead and Die Music
     


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