It feels like just a mere breath ago that New Zealand metallers Monsterworks released the outstanding Earth, an album which took the listener on an enthralling journey through time and a continually expanding sound, in flavour and textures. Now the London, UK based quartet push the adventure and theme found on the last release to further absorbing depths with Universe, a seven track epic which assaults, seduces, and envelops the imagination.
Whereas previous album Earth took on the concept of our planet and its flight from birth to death, Monsterworks takes the next epic step and explores the lifecycle of the Universe in their new incitement. Vocalist/guitarist Jon gave a richer explanation about the release recently, “This is our follow up to Monsterworks :: Earth from last year. We wanted to top ourselves conceptually, so how to surpass an album about the life cycle of Earth from birth to death? It could only be an album about the life cycle of the Universe from birth to death. At least it started out that way with lyrics exploring big bang to heat death, but it gets a little philosophical along the way considering the path mankind might take in its evolution. It is a bloody long time until the last black hole evaporates.” Like its predecessor the album provides a thick and complex presence and with each trip unveils more levels and corners to immerse within. Equally like Earth, the new release reaps the essences of a wealth of metal and heavy rock styles to create a tapestry of unpredictability and intrigue around a similarly creative narrative. Whether Universe rivals Earth’s triumph can be debated but as a sister companion in an epic adventure it leaves the imagination alive and passions engaged.
The Eat Lead and Die released album opens up the journey with its title track, its emergence from a distant realm gentle and inviting as the guitars unwind sonic tendrils and beats provide a forming heart for the piece. The vocals also come in a mellow and harmonic breeze which washes over and wraps around the ears until an explosion of passionate energy and rhythmic penetration brings everything into intensive focus. The vocals subsequently veer with almost wild abandon from clean to a Rob Halford like wail and then into a bestial predation, twisting and evolving from there on in like the music around them. As mentioned each song reveals more of its depths as numerous encounters are embraced, the first track seemingly having patience in its declaration to offer a fresh aspect to every immersion into its impressive flight. With the wealth of styles employed in its maze of invention and sound, song and album fluctuates in success depending on personal tastes, but never relinquishes the strength and potency of its initial temptation across the vast landscape.
The following Grandiose is a tempestuous storm from its first seconds, guitars and rhythms a bruising enticement driven by equally rapacious vocals. As the first, it also flares up and twists with demonic efficiency to leave expectations a wasted exercise and imagination enflamed. The progressive core of the track provides a magnetic canvas but it is the almost carnivorous fire and heat of the cosmic hues which thrill as they lure the emotions on a provocative and satisfying plunge into celestial turbulence, even if the fade-out at the end is less pleasing though it does help suggest the unlimited expanse of the scenery.
The touch of man brings a more intimate aspect to Voyager, its gorgeous entrance with beauty clad guitar and vocal harmonies mesmeric in its tempting. The imaginative hooks and twists of guitar invention add to the mystery and exploratory intent of the song as it soars through peaceful and more intensive realms. It is a scintillating ride bringing the album to a towering pinnacle which is never surpassed though The Bridge gives it a formidable go with its raw and fiery venture into the unknown. With a blackened air to its voracious malevolence, the track threatens and entices as it treads into new spatial waters. At times it is an uncomfortable but always a thoroughly riveting investigation which is as thrilling as it is intimidating.
The collision of thrash and heavy metal at the first bluster of Extropy makes an instantly contagious ride, a rhythmic recruitment irresistible as guitars and bass carve a sinew driven torrent of enterprise and intensive endeavour. It is a song which at first pleased without much more, but given the time and companionship it turns into another major highlight which simply exhausts and scintillates. Its successor Heat Death is similar in that it too was not as instant in its persuasion compared to the earlier tracks but equally worked away to convince and excite, though not to the same potency and depth as the previous song. At ten minutes it is a slightly demanding coaxing but with elegant keys and melodic flames which lick at the senses with tenderness and hope reaped caresses, the song seizes keen attention and emotional companionship which never wavers especially as it expels acidic sonic scythes across a caustic energy in its latter half.
The excellent Outside Time brings the album to a mighty close, its multi-flavoured ever turning body of sound and adventure pure captivation. With a skilled manipulation of thoughts and emotions, it is a towering incitement concluding another outstanding exploit from Monsterworks. Though personally the album misses igniting the depth of passion as Earth achieved, Universe is undeniably a piece of sonic alchemy which leaves the listener involved and excited on numerous levels; another journey from Monsterworks impossible to enthuse loudly over.
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