Monday, 28 November 2011

Monumental Torment - Element of Chaos (2011)

Being a musician can sometimes be a hassle.  As anyone who's ever picked up an instrument and ventured out of their bedroom to try their abilities together with that of other sonic disturbance engineers will know, one lethargic, insular bastard is bad enough but when you've got 4-5 bastards all operating on that level it can prove to be difficult on a level that even the world's greatest and most experienced cat herders would refuse to have anything to do with the entire situation.  Point blank.

So Monumental Torment already get a ripple of applause from the various inhabitants of my cluttered cranium.  With members in Russia and Arizona I find it daunting to comprehend the level of organisation these guys must have to make this project even vaguely workable.  I find it even more daunting that they manage to make it work so well.

What these far-flung troubadours produce is some particularly technical, chaotic brutal death metal of a rarely surpassed quality.  No quiet build-ups here, no slow intros; just a razor-blade bedecked bass-ball bat straight to the chops.  Of which, incidentally, there are a fair few - along with slams and sweeps and so much widdly hammer-on/pull-off's that I can pretty much envisage the rosewood being eroded by the second.

And yet - as always - there is a downside:  The most glaringly obvious one is the drums which, while on the slower sections are pretty convincing and overall very well-programmed, there are times that the speed, velocity and lack of any kind of organic feeling whatsoever detract from the piece as well as the overall experience.  Challenging listeners is always good - not that I'm endorsing Lulu-esque serve-up-shit-and-say-that-it's-food, obviously - but making listeners actively have to force themselves back on track the way that certain sections of the drum programming on this do is just unnecessary.  Programmed drums will always lack a certain amount of depth when compared to their organic counterparts - that's a given - but I can't help feeling that with a little more time spent on making some of the blasts a little less absurd would've made for a much more substantial and awe-inspiring listen.

We also run into one of the biggest problems of the genre once again:  Namely a lack of diversity between tracks.  On the whole, each slab of mind-fuckery on this release is well-composed and fully thought-through.  At times, however, the sheer pace means that certain sections have a tendency to appear all too similar to sections on preceding tracks.  Nevertheless, I wouldn't (as has been done elsewhere) compare this release to the likes of Brain Drill.  We do actually have songs here and each one does stand alone.  The lack of variation is a problem for the album and possibly caused by being locked into a strict tempo by drum programming, as opposed to a problem with individual tracks.

Yet there are some elements here that are truly unique:  Nameless One features a piano not as intro, not as 'ambience' and not as some absurd, half-arsed attempt at having classical leanings but rather as a fully-fledged instrument -  its playing both sitting beautifully alongside while striving for technical dominion over the guitars.  For the rest of the album though, it rarely rears its head again - just a nod here and there which, to me, was a massive disappointment when it seemed to work so fucking well!

So a festival of technical ferocity is the order of the day, with riffs galore and slamming brutality together with flashes of total originality.  I'd be surprised if any fan of technical death metal wouldn't enjoy this album.  Just be prepared to have something a little more organic and a little more laid back queued on your playlist for afters.  Maybe that and an ice-pack. 

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