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Though the two are not quite the same, I'd liken Monstrosity's 5th full-length Spiritual Apocalypse to Deicide's surprising Stench of Redemption from the year prior. Both show a heightened sensibility towards melody and songwriting that establish their acts for a new century, without abandoning the brutal throughput of their history. Spiritual Apocalypse reveals a willingness to explore and grow, while maintaining the characteristics that had to its day marked the band as one of the most potent second stringers in the Florida scene: top notch riffing and lead capabilities, dynamic Lee Harrison drumming, sleek production values, rhythmic variation and enough moments of atmosphere to carry the listener into its aggressive, otherworldly space (the last being the most impressive).
Where Rise to Power was honestly pretty lackluster, Spiritual Apocalypse excels. You won't find yourself chewing your fingernails as you wait patiently for something exciting to happen. Nearly every track is infused with some stylish lead or ear jerking rhythm guitar that remains within the listener's mind, like the subtle and escalating acrobatics of "Apostles of the Endless Night", or the percussive punctuation of guitars and drums that inaugurates "The Inhuman Race". I can't get enough of the leads in "Spiritual Apocalypse" or "Sacred Oblivion"! Mark English, the band's new guitarist as of this album, simply knocks each of them out of the park, accumulating layers of rapture and revelation that cement Spiritual Apocalypse as the most 'musical' of Monstrosity's efforts.
He's not the only fresh blood here: Mike Hrubovcak of Vile steps in to add a more reactive admixture of snarls and growls than his predecessor, the effective yet monotonous Jason Avery. All told, Monstrosity are one of those few bands that can claim to have had three frontmen of note in their ranks, but Hrubovcak manages to honor his predecessors while wonderfully fitting himself into the semi-technical landscape of Harrison, English and bassist Mike Poggione. The mix is great, flush with all the other modern tech and brute death works in the field who actually care about such a thing, and the lyrics and composition are among the best of the band's career. Less snappy or flashy than Millenium, perhaps, but more intricate than In Dark Purity or Rise to Power. If asked to choose a favorite among the band's works, I might give the slight, invisible edge to the debut Imperial Doom, since I enjoy Corpsegrinder and the older atmosphere there, but I can't shake the feeling that they'd finally written its equal. Different, but about equal, and without a doubt one of the best Florida death metal albums of the 21st century to date.
Monstrosities have, previously to this record, released some of the most constructive, callous, useful and poignant of music in within their career. However, media and television based hypes regarding what people want to hear than what people want to listen to. When perpetrators such as these get to "comeback", it's utterly palpable and moronic not to see this as another mistake, were the band release their mediocre, industry influenced music.
This album is no exception, the production completely overdone and the guitar sounds similar to a mediocre metalcore band, unfocused and with zero brutality to it. Riffs embedded amongst each other without regard to any real innovation and originality like previous Monstrosity works, and the extensive right handed techniques utilized on the previous records as well (in particular I might say, to In Dark Purity) is eradicated. Structures are wearisome and fragmented with no interesting standard listen to even at times, catchy riffs layered out unto segments of a monotonous vibe reminiscent of mediocre death metal at best.
The guitar solos on this album, although highly technical and intricate, are placed were you expect them to. There is no denying the skill of each individual of this band alone, but indistinctness when writing music like this, or an influence from modern TV culture, becomes apparent even when musicians are as experienced as this. Bass doesn't even deserve a mention; it is completely inaudible despite the virtuous skill of Mike Poggoine.
However, there are some positive aspects on the album. The vocals, intricate and intelligent, Mike Hrubovcak is essentially the most focused member in this band at the moment, and drummer Lee Harrison is also highly skilled, and adds a tremendous amount of feeling to the drums, and never gets out of time or surfaces when he shouldn't.
This album delivers little potential and infact, little to worry about the future of Monstrosity, since this album displays perfectly that these musicians can only adhere to skill, yet completely ignore were the strength of death metal occurs in abstract, as opposed to pure wankery.
I've been a huge fan of Monstrosity for awhile, and this album only solidifies my high opinion of this great death metal band. There are nine full length songs, most of which are around the five minute mark. There is also a minute long keyboard interlude, which is one of the few negative points on the album.
The first thing that stuck out to me the first time hearing this is that the drumming is unbelievable. Lee Harrison is now officially one of my favorite drummers, ever. The fills and technicality of the drumming are quite mind-blowing. The drumming reminds me of the drumming of Jontho from Ragnarok. Completely fast as fuck, but never repetitive. Mike Hrubovcak takes over the vocal duties and he very well may be the best vocalist Monstrosity has ever had. Pure crushing death metal here, accept no subsititutes.
Now on to a song by song review (yea it's that fucking good) :
The album kicks off with the track "Spiritual Apocalypse". As soon as you hear the insane riffing you know you're about to experience a great album. The guitar playing, quite simply, is as good as their previous stuff. It could be argued that the guitar playing here is slightly better than on their previous masterpieces. The song "Spiritual Apocalypse" really gives an insight to what the whole album is all about : great death metal vocals, lyrics, guitar playing and drumming. The vocals are straight death metal, but the vocalist does an awesome job of conveying the passion of the lyrics and music as well as keeping the lyrics intelligible.
"Firestorm" kicks off immediately where "Spiritual Apocalypse" ended. Although the songs are similar in style, they all maintain their own identity. The guitar solos to start this song off are nothing short of perfect - I suspect Kelly Shaefer (Atheist) may have lent his hand on some of the solos on this album.. As with most of the songs on this album, the lyrics deal with war, death and destruction. Right around the 2:18 mark another set of incredible solos to blow your fucking mind, followed directly by some of the best death metal vocals and lyrics I have ever heard.
"Apostles of the endless night" is brutal as fuck. No other way to put it. This album is great because it is pure mind raping brutal / technical death metal. But even though it's very heavy, it never loses it's sense of musicianship. Every note is obviously well thought out. The layered vocals on this song are very excellently executed in the chorus's. As with the the previous songs, around 2:20 a set of guitar solos to blow your fucking mind. As the song progresses, it somehow manages to get heavier and heavier.
"Within divisions of darkness" is truly a war song. If you're going into battle, this is the perfect anthem for destroying the motherfucking insurgency. The drumming is really what gives this song a very warlike feel to it. Right around two minutes you've got the incredibly tasteful dual vocals of a lower guttural death metal growl and the higher pitch Atheist/Arsis type vocals. This makes perfect sense as James Malone and Kelly Shaefer both contributed on this album. I don't know if they contributed on the vocals and guitar playing, but it does sound like they did contribute to the vocals as well. As the song ends you're left wishing for more!
"The inhuman race" continues the trend of the whole album : very technical and well thought out brutal death metal. If you're not head banging at around 1:20, then clean your fucking ears out. The chorus is nothing short of spectacular, you'll be screaming "the inhuman race"!! before long. Around 2:19 the song slows down for some almost melodic guitar playing and some excellent drumming. But before the three minute mark hits the brutality slams you in the head. When the bells hit around the 4:00 mark you're left awe struck. WAR WITHOUT END!!!
"Remnants of divination" is probably my favorite track on the album. That is saying a lot as the whole thing is a damn masterpiece. Great intro to the song and then Mike Hrubovcak's vocals tear your head off. There is not enough praise that can be said about this guys vocal performance on this album. Upon the first time hearing this song you very well may listen to it three times in a row. One interesting note on this song is that the lyrics are some of the best death metal lyrics I have ever heard. The chorus is also one of the best death metal chorus's ever, in my book.
"Illumination" is a 46 second interlude and it really is quite worthless. The only non essential track on this whole album. It is completely devoid of any musical value whatsoever and I always skip this track.
"Sacred oblivion" is yet another song that makes you want to bang your head until your neck snaps into a million pieces. Crazy lead guitar work and drumming are nothing new on this album and this song is no exception. Unrelenting song that makes you want to kill someone.
"The bloodline horror" starts off with some excellent riffs then breaks down into a mind numbingly great guitar bridge. With there is melody in the guitar playing it NEVER comes close to be melodic death metal in any way. So kudos to the band for keeping melody intertwined with the brutality to perfection. The chorus is especially kick ass and the riffing is mesmerizing to say the least. Mark English is quickly becoming one of my favorite metal guitarists ever. The parasitic nature of the guitar playing is somewhat reminiscent of the early David Vincent era Morbid Angel, and it is just as skillfully executed. To compare English to Azgathoth is truly a worthy comparison. It does seem that Mark English has a propensity of making better hooks,though. The parts where you want to slam your head into a wall are plentiful and non stop.
"Triumph in black" is an especially great closer. Through the whole album you're left thinking, how the fuck can they continue to keep playing this high level of music? I know after the first time I heard this album, I was left thinking there was no way in hell they could match the intensity and utter perfection of the album all throughout, but they honestly pull it off and leave you satisfied completely. The chorus on this song, like the whole fucking album, is awesome. Some very off kilter guitar solos around 1:20 and they're excellent. This leads into some more mesmerizing lead guitar work and by this point your neck has to be fucking killing you. The perfect song to end the perfect album.
All in all, this is one of my top 5 favorite death metal albums ever, probably in the top 3. Definitely the best death metal album I have heard since the new millennium. I had to give this thorough review because the first review of this album does not do it justice in any way, shape or form. This album is mandatory for any fan of death metal. Even if you're not a death metal fan, after hearing this you will be.