Monsterworks – Album of Man (Mortal Music, 28 March 2013)
So I just realized in a few more days this year will be half over — and I also realized that I’m nowhere near halfway through writing reviews for LAST year’s top albums list… yikes! If I don’t want to still be working on these when I’m supposed to be putting together THIS year’s list, I guess I’d better get moving at a quicker pace. So here’s another one for you guys.
Monsterworks from London, England (formerly New Zealand) have been making crazy mishmashes of awesome music for nearly twenty years, and during that time they’ve released roughly seven hundred albums and EPs. I don’t know the exact number, but I’ve heard that they’ve done two more (Earth and Universe) since the one I’m currently writing about (which was only fifteen months ago) and they’ve just announced that they’ll have ANOTHER two (Overhaul and Existence) by early next year. Seriously.
I’m sure I’ll get caught up on all of that some day. Maybe. But for now, let’s talk about Album of Man, which came out last March.
Long-time readers might recall that this album began its life as a three-song digital release called Man::Instincts which was made available through Mortal Music on 10 July, 2012. I wrote a review of that EP a week later, saying some sort of craziness about a gigantic supergroup made up of King Diamond, Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, Rob Zombie, Deicide, and Mastodon — where they combined all of their influences (and all of their vocal styles) into one unified choir, like some kind of heavy metal Live Aid charity collaboration or something.
I’d have to say it was one of the stranger reviews I’ve written, but it felt suitable because it’s definitely strange how a band could incorporate so many different styles into a single piece of music and have it turn out so well.
That was followed by a second three-song digital EP called Man::Intrinsic on 30 October, 2012. I wrote about this one too to share some details about the release when it was first announced, but I somehow didn’t get the chance to revisit it and write a proper review.
Combining the six tracks from those two EPs with four new ones, this album spans the whole metal spectrum, from the epic melodic death-thrash of “The Creation Dream” and “Taste of Doom” to the progressive-rock-ballad-ish “Known” and the stripped-down, acoustic-based “Being Human.” Countless elements of every other heavy music genre imaginable are scattered throughout, like the wah-laden stoner metal guitar solo in “It’s Alive”; even the predominantly death/grind/thrash piece “Harden to Art” includes a layer of acoustic guitar and some sort of psychedelic swirly noises near the end.
All the while, the band also builds up these incredible multi-layered vocals with (for example) ultra-falsetto on top of death-growls or clean rock singing, or (often) a combination made up of several layers of each — but this effect is always used sparingly enough so that it stays fresh and interesting. One of my personal favorite moments comes in “Unconditional Lie,” which opens with a melody line that’s harmonized between the guitar, bass, and vocals, that’ll stick in your brain forever after the first time you hear it. Another great highlight of this album is the closing track “Air (We Have Come So Far),” which sums up everything that has led up to it, both musically and lyrically — much like the grand finale of a Broadway musical.
And speaking of lyrical themes — for a group who has previously tackled vast outer-space themes and a whole record about God, it should come as no surprise that here they have presented us with an ambitious concept album about the nature of mankind, from birth through death. Many of the songs here explore the unique qualities that distinguish us as a species, including the ability to reason and seek out knowledge (the eternal search for the reason “Why”), and the recognition of our own mortality. A major recurring theme is that, despite our vast knowledge and understanding, there is much for which we still don’t have answers. It seems like the subtitle for the last song — “We Have Come So Far” — leaves the implication that there is still a great distance yet for us to go, but there is also the hint that if we continue to follow our curious natures and never stop questioning everything, we just might eventually get there.
The album’s full lyrics (and a little bit of extra insight into the songs) can be found at this location.
You can stream or download the songs from Man::Instincts and Man::Intrinsic by using the respective Bandcamp widgets (below).
The entire Album of Man can be downloaded here, and the CD is available to purchase here.
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Monsterworks website: http://www.supermetal.net