Monsterworks
Album of Man

Back in 2011, UK/New Zealand collaboration Monsterworks, featuring The Living Fields vocalist Jon Higgs released the killer, The God Album– and it was an awesome slab of progressive, experimental and undefinable modern metal. So here is the follow up, dealing with Man rather than God and is full of the same deep philosophical themes and lyrics as well as more hard to pigeon hole metal and Higgs unique vocal approach.

Album of Man collects the bands last few Man themed EPs: Instincts and Intrinsic into one concept album that melds thrash, heavy metal, progressive metal and even death metal into a vast sonic collage that is really hard to nail down in an easy description. Those who have heard The Living Fields self titled debut and 2011s Running Out of Daylight will be familiar with Higgs divisive voice, but for the uninitiated imagine a high pitched register that melds Rob Halford, King Diamond, Ihsahn and 3 Inches of Blood‘s Cam Pipes. To many it will sound like a cat being raped while raking its claws on a chalk board. To others, myself included, even with my aversion to clean vocals, they are unique and interesting, especially as they are at least broken up with a more normal clean croon and occasional growl/bellow.

So if you can get past the vocals, you will be in for a kaleidoscope of arrays and styles of metal. Monsterworks simply does not fit one or more style as they constantly change in songs, between songs and won’t squeeze nicely into one paradigm. You have gentle acoustic numbers (“Known”, “Being Human”), rousing hard rock (“It’s Alive”, “Free Will”), lively thrash numbers (“All Suns Die”), sprawling, complex progressive pieces (“Unconditional Lie”) even a blasting death metal number (“Harden to Art”) and a bit of everything (“Taste of Doom”). All of it enjoyable, challenging and engaging, if all over the musical map.

However, it’s not until the album’s epic closing standout “Air – We Have Come so Far”, a new track where I feel the brilliance of The God Album truly shines through. Not that anything else on the release is chopped liver – but it all feels a bit disconnected – like the separate releases they were. Unlike the standout longer, more developed compositions such as “Everything You Believe is a Lie”, “God” and “Hymn of Fire” from The God Album, “Air” traverses 7+ minutes of patient build, more delicate hues and a steady prog rock/Opeth-ian gait. It never quite peaks but certainly draws you in elegantly and delvers a fairly rousing end note, showing what Monsterworks can really deliver when they settle into a song for an extended period.

I have to admit, Album of Man didn’t strike a chord with me as well as its predecessor, but it’s an interesting release to say the least and you have to appreciate the creativity and diversity Higgs and co dive into for this project, knowing full well the fickle metal community.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
August 29th, 2013

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