Monstrosity – The Passage of Existence (2018) REVIEW

To have lived to see such horrors as the constant resurfacing of old brands would create a certain madness in anyone but, to be pleasantly surprised and damn near moderately pleased with every successive incarnation of any old school death metal band is unfounded. In truth, the entirety of Monstrosity‘s output is fantastically brutal and technical death metal but the identity of the band has been completely amorphous beyond pairs of albums fronted by George Fisher (Cannibal Corpse) and Jason Avery (Eulogy). No true constant remains beyond the powerhouse drumming of Lee Harrison, who now also serves as guitarist for Pete Sandoval‘s resurrection of Terrorizer, yet several ‘classic’ releases land in his wake. ‘Imperial Doom’ (1992) and ‘Millennium’ (1996) were essentially Floridian equivalencies for Suffocation‘s beginnings and still they become more underrated and flippantly side-noted even when old school death metal worship is a dime-a-dozen in every territory. This only serves to highlight the division of interest that exists in Monstrosity‘s fan-base as technical, and now increasingly progressive, ambitions realize more clearly with every release. The old Monstrosity, whatever they were, stand ghosted as Harrison looks to current sounds while fans are either on board for the brand recognition or shit out of luck for any consistent thread through their body of work.

Before you snarl and start spitting at your glowing information device understand that these are all observations made back in 2007 when Monstrosity released ‘Spiritual Apocalypse’; In giving an incredible platform to guitarist Mark English, who can also be heard in this years bland Deicide outing, Harrison handed the keys to an old car to younger drivers. Eleven years ago that album surely infuriated some old heads and brought the Monstrosity name closer to the sort of output that made Unique Leader and Willowtip bigger names in the first decade of the millennium. Eleven years later a bigger budget, a giant label, and an extra guitarist in hand Monstrosity build upon that previous album far less than you’d expect after over a decade of silence. Of course Matt Barnes is an excellent guitarist with his work in Quinta Essentia and Chaos Inception equally immaculate but for all of the intense talent padding out the line-up of the band it almost begins to feel like Harrison is too intently driving the ship, failing to create any new interest in the interim.

If you asked me if I wanted a full hour of brutally ‘compressed’ drum work on a technical death metal album in 2003 I would have ripped my Krisiun shirt in half and howled yes at the moon but in 2018 I’m already taking a handful of Ibuprofen in anticipation. This sound goes a long way towards accentuating the repetitive structures of ‘The Passage of Existence’ where it seems every riff comes at the same clip no matter how hard the duo try to mix things up. To add to the dry, flattening pace of the record the only major breaks from the felt-like rubbing of the guitars comes in the form of progressive metal apropos lead guitars that are still just as meaningless as they were on ‘Spiritual Apocalypse’. To set ‘The Passage of Existence’ next to the year’s biggest progressive/technical death metal releases Monstrosity sounds a decade old; Play it alongside any band still chugging out old school brutal death metal today and it’d sound just as tired. Is it nepotism, branding, and the positive gluttony of today’s modern death metal fever that drives enthusiasm for this merely average release? Without sounding like too much more of a reductive cunt: Yes, I believe it does.

Allow me to backpedal some, though. Harrison has no doubt surrounded himself with incredibly talented musicians and this isn’t because of his stature in the halls of old school death metal’s history, it is because he has proven himself a great talent through decades of work. As I said, there is no truly lacking era of Monstrosity and my gripe comes more with the lack of guitar interest on these past two releases, which become more or less interchangeable with some back-to-back listens. My own personal displeasure with this project never came from a longing for the past, either. Continually shit rehashes from Deicide, Obituary, and Morbid Angel‘s own unique brand of bumbling might set a low bar for the future but my distaste for ‘The Passage of Existence’ centers around its bland progressive metal personality rather than a lust for the olden days.

There are plenty of strong tracks taken piecemeal, though; Starting with the pensive riffs of “Radiated”, the majesty of the lead guitars on “Cosmic Pandemia”, and the elasticity of “The Proselygeist” grooves. Where it all fully sours for me is with an overly long, dully repetitive tracklist gouged and stuffed with filler tracks. At some point they’d have done just fine to release ‘The Passage of Existence’ in two halves with a cutting floor track taped to the end of each rather than suggest slogging through a full hour of Monstrosity‘s barrage. But hey, I’m not the right demographic anymore and I think the sort of folks who have stuck with bands like Hate Eternal over the years will find some joy here. After a few weeks of my own analysis, I can’t recommend it.

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Artist Monstrosity
Type Album
Released September 7, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Metal Blade Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Monstrosity on Facebook
Genre Technical Death Metal

Deviant cycle of dreadful cries. 3.25/5.0

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