Monsterworks are a slippery bunch in a good way in that not only do they experiment quite wildly with musical genres but also with a very refreshing and intelligent approach to subject matter. Whilst the music may occasionally suggest traditional metal themes such as riding motorcycles, destroying fictional monsters with steel and praising the glory of metal, their subject matter tends to be far more high-brow, taking in religious concepts, human nature and nature itself. Their latest opus ‘Earth’ could easily be dismissed in passing as a tree hugging eco-hippyathon, but that is most definitely not the case here. What Monsterworks have attempted is something rather more ambitious and worthwhile than a simple protest album. Instead what we have is a concept album based around the life cycle of Earth, from its origin in the aftermath of a supernova to our present relationship with our planet. So where else can you start with something like this other than right at the very beginning?…
The album opens in emotive and cinematic style on ‘From Dust and Gravity’, with a slow and dramatic intro leading into the main body of the song. Unsure on what to expect, I was taken by surprise both by the musical composition and the vocals. On a musical level Monsterworks are not content to stick with one style and make that their own; instead they use an excellent mix of influences throughout that somehow manage not only to hang together coherently, but also to vividly paint a picture in the listener’s head in keeping with the stage of Earth’s evolution that we are considering. On a vocal level things are equally varied and interesting as Jono Blade operates on the higher end of the scale for the majority of the time with a pitch that is up there with 3 Inches of Blood’s Cam Pipes, or Halford in full screeching fury. As with the music though the vocals adapt to suit the moment, be it black metal rasping to death thrash growls to clean relaxing laid back summer of love hippyness; there is a versatility and vision about things that Devin Townsend would be proud of.
The overall feeling that this album produces is one of a prog rock opera, with the expansive story arc and music being used almost as a form of narration. In its lighter and more tranquil moments ‘Earth’ is a relaxing place full of wonder and possibility, an example being ‘Oxygenation’ where we hear about the beginnings of how the planet started to evolve to sustain life forms. On the other side of the coin, things get crushingly brutal with the black metal blasting of ‘Bookended by Extinction’, which rather speaks for itself as a subject matter. Despite the concept, things never descend into excessive preaching which is almost mandatory for an album like this. The closest it gets is the title track, which serves more as a reminder of our responsibilities rather than a chastening warning. ‘Earth’ is a very rewarding if slightly jumbled album. Whilst musically things may not be pinpoint perfect 100% of the time, the depth of vision and skill in composition easily outweighs any other minus points. The one problem I found is that like most progressive concept albums, you can’t really describe it as catchy. Impressive certainly, but its meandering nature makes it difficult to get lodged in your brain. This is not an album for the closed minded or those with short attention spans. It really does need to be listened to attentively in order to get the most from it. If you are a fan of Devin Townsend, Dream Theater and Gojira, this is going to tick all your boxes.
(8/10 Lee Kimber)