English experimetallists MONSTERWORKS describe themselves as "progressive thrash supermetal," but that's not quite hitting it on the head with full blunt. What can be said is that their latest album "Earth" is a challenging culture clash of metal and prog theories hoisted from as far back as the 1960s. MONSTERWORKS' brainy mini-tutorials of earth science (lyrics attributed to a chap named Blade) throughout this album will run far over the heads of many listeners, but the go-green memorandum should resonate through all of the spiraling signatures and rear-ending genera.
Vocalist/guitarist Jon might be the most ranged-crazed singer this side of KING DIAMOND. While there's a narrative rhyme and reason to KING DIAMOND's pitch-flung techniques, Jon's propensity to screech like an Eighties hard rocker (i.e. CINDERELLA's Tom Keifer and DANGEROUS TOYS' Jason McMaster) all over the opening track "From Dust And Gravity" leaves no indication of where he'll go on the rest of the album. One automatically assumes this album won't linger in its brief knock at the gates of Hairball Heaven.
Assumption correct as Jon wields death metal and metalcore yelps on the subsequent track "The Last Universal Answer". However, don't expect MONSTERWORKS to follow suit toward either subgenre, save for brief rapid tempo bursts and engorged tones. Instead, they assume a more progressive, softer interlude before delivering a roundhouse punch of sonic layers delved between Jon and his fellows Marcus (guitars) and Hugo (bass) that whoosh in and momentarily settle over James' tapping march strikes before changing direction a final time on the stomping outro.
The gorgeous acoustic lead-in to "The Last Universal Ancestor" gives a deceitful illusion of placidity as the song drowns itself in pounding tides immediately thereafter. "Ancestor" shifts tones between walloping power metal blasts and swooning prog lines that open the gates for a terrific guitar solo and revelation of Jon's cleaner vocals that bounce in between his death ralphs.
In some ways, MONSTERWORKS' batty attack is similar to BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME, but there are also subtle hints of KING CRIMSON and early PINK FLOYD sprinkled into their cerebral stew. Those muses play even more into the lofting swirls of "Oxygenation", even if Jon's dynamic amalgam of sculpting, screeching and puking unhinges the track's elevating bars for a moment. The instrumental section of the song grows denser and more aspirant between the song's ply for mankind to embrace conservation. As with the entirety of "Earth", these guys deliver "Oxygenation"'s caveat from a textbook orientation.
Once more do CRIMSON and FLOYD play their hands in the often slower and murkier "Powered by Fate". Much of the journey conveys the sensation implied by the lyric "treading steps steeped in the basest microbial crud." However, the last third of the song hoists the listener into the stratosphere with the stern warning of global annihilation, positing to make him a "pioneer in a new frontier, colonizing emptiness". If you think you've figured MONSTERWORKS out at this point, stand by for the 2:13 brackish black metal hellhole they stake out for "Bookended by Extinction", brought to frightening realization with Jon's dread-inducing throat belches.
And so it goes throughout the adventurous mind fuck of "Earth", one continuous mood change after another, filled with immense variation and every metallic and progressive nuance MONSTERWORKS can cram into their hyper-intelligent arrangements. The epic-length title track all but delivers a eulogy through an isolated piano and chant section before dirtying things up in the sinewy final section. Despite the glum feeling projected through the title track, there remains a message of hope for survival as MONSTERWORKS unravels the majesty of our planet's formation like a prospectus.
The prime directive delivered by MONSTERWORKS' "Earth" is best contained within one line from "Aeon of Man", "doom or success, it is still our choice to avoid a holocaust". You can view "Earth" as a series of academic diatribes from metal hippies or interpreted communications from the bastard children of alien scientologists who have an outsider's view of our planet's inevitable implosion. Either or, MONSTERWORKS forces their audience to take a stand or at least ponder the effects of environmental indifference.
Not everyone is going to able to hang with this album, that's a given. "Earth" is total sensory rape but its intellect far outweighs its weirdness.