Double Metal Blade Review: Monstrosity & Siege of Power
A double dose of metal reviews for your butts.
In the beginning, there was First Class Elite. Essentially, it was Asphyx playing punk, their influences ranging from Carnivore to S.O.D, from Discharge to Amebix, but not entirely without the death metal-reminiscent riffing characteristic for the previous works of Baayens and Bagchus. Rounded out with Martin van Drunen returning to bass and Hans “Am Very Angry” van der Benk taking over the vocal duties, it ruled. Shamefully, after the Grime! Greed! Gore! three-way split nothing was to be heard from the band again. Until sometime in 2016, guitarist Paul Baayens and drummer Bob Bagchus decided to revive the project with bassist Theo van Eekelen, with whom the former had shared the stage in Hail of Bullets and the latter in Grand Supreme Blood Court.
Now that the membership has become scattered among their works, it would feel natural to apply such denominators as “supergroup” to the band, who would soon choose to rename themselves Siege of Power, but unlike practically every band graced with the term these years, it did not seem like some second-rate, half-assed project between bands that had met on tour and needed the feeling of creating music carefree. No, each of the members has made music together, and shared the stage together, for several years, coming together once more, with a new band. Even the new vocalist, death metal legend Chris Reifert shared something of a connection with the band, his Violation Wound having been one of the two bands First Class Elite shared their split with.
“All recordings on their debut album Warning Blast were done in just a few hours…” sounds less like not-a-half-assed-side-project, but I also like the idea of a punk band going in, playing rec and just crapping everything out before calling it a night, just to mix the next day. “…and most of the music and lyrics were written on the spot.” A-ha. That’s some of the least promising things I’ve read in a while. But the FCE split is extremely jammable so I am not about to give in that easy.
Siege of Power is more of the same for those familiar with FCE, Bagchus’ simple pounding over hastening hardcore riffs – though several songs, like “Conquest For What?” and “Born Into Hate” swipe ideas from the Asphyx sale-basket, while others – “Bulldozing Skulls” at the front – go from doom to d-beat in matter of seconds, it never gets too close for comfort. Increasing the death metal pretense is the much louder, heavier and cleaner production that fits Warning Blast like a glove. Especially death-y the band gets whenever they slow down, the closer “The Cold Room”, for example does not speed up at all, building it’s intensity on the album’s most restrained melodies – when they do appear here, they are some of the most lively the quartet’s put to tape anywhere – and the increasingly unglued Reifert’s descend to insanity.
On paper Siege of Powert reads like a therapeutic project, but Warning Blast makes the best of a feeble foundation. Not one for the ages, but more fun than it ought to be.
3/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Monstrosity has been around since ’90, but, despite perseverance, they’ve never risen to the status and admiration many of their peers did. On the other hand, countless bands have failed to reach half of the fame Monstrosity has, so they shouldn’t have much to complain about. Especially now that The Passage of Existence, a comeback of sorts, is being released on Metal Blade for a higher profile. Some may remember their seemingly hectic debut Imperial Doom, others hopefully their cult classic sophomore – Millenium – an album even better than it’s cover is bad. To many, it is no doubt the band where Corpsegrinder used to be in before Cannibal Corpse. Unfortunately it’s always seemed that’s the point where Monstrosity disappears from everyone’s radar – the point where Fisher exited the band. Though In Dark Purity remains well regarded and the bulky but smart Rise To Power far better than it’s reputation, the band became buried in the dust of aeons and the dive-in-quality known as Spiritual Apocalypse did little to help.
Between then and now vocalist Mike Hrubovack has become active in Hypoxia and more recently with Nader Sadek, while drummer and only remaining founding member Lee Harrison reunited with Sam Molina in Terrorizer and guitarist Mark English took up a tenure in Deicide. A lot of names, all of which spell doubt against Monstrosity ever reuniting in studio. Doubts that I don’t believe I was alone in having. Yet here stands an hours worth of death metal, ready to stand head-and-shoulders above their successors. Or fall trying.
First thing to notice on The Passage of Existence is the unfavourable sound. In theory, every bit as brutal and heavy as it should, but in practice more sterile and tiring than it ought. Loud, plastic bass drum and silent cymbals attack like sampled and bass, sailing between soft and stringy, lacks balls. Although riffwise the band has only a fe nuggets of gold in their hands, they’ve mastered the craft of placing good riffs next to each other and seasoning each – a brief appearance by a dissonant chord, energetic and emotional solos and technical propensity – in a manner elevating them to great. Check out the harmonized chugs following a solo uncharacteristically impassioned for death metal in “The Proselygeist” for a good example of the previously mentioned “bulky but smart” songwriting. The trio of singles kickstarting the album aren’t the best of songs The Passage of Existence has to offer, but offer a good presentation of they direction and quality to await.
I wish the album actually sounded like what it seems to attempt, the years has been so full of godly death metal, even Monstrosity could use every bit of advantage they can have. But then again, it would hardly be an cult band’s comeback album on a big label if it did. At least the Florida fivesome can honestly say they’ve trampled their peer’s comeback records under foot.
3.5 / 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell