Avant-garde perfection cannot be rushed and it has been one hell of a long wait since last album Binocular from Atrox way back in 2008. They are still very much looking through a glass lens which could well see them working on a trilogy (what next Telescope) and moving away from 2003 disc Orgasm as far as titles are concerned. This is an album which like its predecessor is every bit as eccentric as the sort of person who would be seen arrogantly strutting away wearing said eye-piece. That is no real surprise considering that this group have many unconventional oddballs from the Norweirdan scene including members of Manes, Tactile Gemma (I miss them) and Goat The Head in their line-up.
Playing this and predecessor Binocular back to back strikes very much as the band continuing almost flawlessly from where they left off despite such a large gap in time. It seems like most of the line-up are present and correct from before and having been un-caged are in a good-spirited mood which is certainly something that comes across in the largely jovial nature of their craft. ‘Mass’ comes in with plenty of mystery behind its opening musical box motif and breezes away with hefty drumming and clamouring croons from front-man Rune Folgerø. It’s the chorus here that is going to hit you with its whammy near reggae sounding infectiousness, setting your head spinning away and driving you dizzy. The players somewhat like mischievous jesters don’t make this a simple verse, chorus set-up in the slightest, twisting, turning away and adding all sorts of sounds and trip laden effects to the electronic canvas but still retaining a heavy bombast. The band that this most resembles at this point are Vulture Industries and with a new album imminent from them too it’s a great time for lovers of this sort of musical lunacy. As ‘Vacuum’ goes and crushes, sucking you up (ooh err) the lurching grooves strongly resemble another kindred spirit namely Arcturus and there are many moments on this album that will have you no doubt thinking of them especially the groovy rhythm of longest track on the album ‘For We Are Many’. The soaring vocals being another factor and Rune does a great job hitting the higher notes and making the music literally take off and hit the rafters with them. ‘Heat’ sees the band coming off simmer and hitting a near dark trip-hop frenzy as everything including the lyrics “flow away.” This is near impossible not to get off seat and join in twisting and tumbling away to its manic beat. Like I said it’s jovial too and will leave with a shit eating grin on your face. There’s some sci-fi laden effects from the keyboards. It’s about as hectic as the accompanying cover-art but for me and anyone else versed in this sort of thing it will no doubt gel together perfectly and have you join in, singing along after the second or third listen.
Progheads should have no trouble sending their minds and bodies into the bamboozling melodies of songs such as ‘Finger’ when the band hit ProgPower Europe 2017 in what is going to be a rare treat. It’s a damn shame on the strength of listening to this continuously over the last couple of weeks that it is the only outing planned at the moment. Expect the unexpected, the band as before display a good subtle use of samples and may well be akin to drop in things like a splash of piano work for no apparent reason at all. Strut is something a song like ‘Suicide Days’ does and it almost waltzes to the gallows in a dusky Western town, putting head in the noose and kicking its own stool away just as the manic drum and bass work comes in with a maniac flurry. As for the sounds that are a bit like they have escaped from a cartoon, they just add to the over the top zealous nature of it all. I am not sure what ‘Movie’ the band most resemble but with the track of that name it’s certainly a bouncy one and it both shreds and throws you all over the shop with bi-polar intensity like a sudden sugar rush. You would certainly not feel short-changed renting this out from a 2$ video rental shop as the sample on it suggests.
There’s so much packed into the 8 songs and 40 minutes here that Monocle is an album that will leave you pickled and stewed as you dance into last track ‘Target,’ something it clearly hits and will leave you hungering to play it all over again. Nice to have you back Atrox, visit soon and don’t leave it so long next time!
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)