One of the interesting things about hanging around the music scene long enough is seeing how a band changes and grows from album to album. Of course, when many bands take between three and five years to put each record out, doing that is a chore. We easily forget where we were and how we felt when those records came out by the time the next one is released, which blunts the impact the evolution of a band can have. After five years, anything will sound good, because we've been so anxious to hear new music. It's a subtle trick that bands lacking creativity readily exploit. Rather than putting out records they know aren't good, they wait and increase the gap between them, to give the new album an air of tortured genius, and to make us ready to accept anything, as a so-called gift.
On the other hand, there are still some bands that pump out records at a frenzied clip, who revel in the ability to make music and explore their creativity. In the last couple of years, Monsterworks has been one of those bands, as “Overhaul” is the third of their albums I've had the chance to review. Their “Album Of Man” was a schizophrenic blast of catchiness, while “Universe” saw them expanding their sound into areas that I can't say I was necessarily fond of.
“Overhaul” sees, as the title would suggest, yet another shift in the approach Monsterworks takes, though not a change in the sound. These songs still share the hallmarks of Monsterworks, but approach the construction of the songs in a new way.
The main take-away I had from “Overhaul” is that these are the most focused songs I've heard from Monsterworks. There is still the blend of styles that we've grown accustomed to, but they're integrated into more coherent structures. Much like the course Opeth took as they approached “Blackwater Park”, Monsterworks has figured out how to be themselves without the songs feeling thrown together in a blender. These songs manage to veer from one sound to another logically, making the madcap madness of their music all that more effective. Without the distraction of jarring transitions, there is nothing to distract you from hearing what the band is up to.
The opening “Educate The Masses” is a perfect example of this, as it shifts through multiple instrumental sections without hesitation. It's possibly the most assured bit of writing I've yet heard from the band, even if the vocal sections that bookend the song lack the energy and immediacy of their best work.
That quality is apparent on much of the album. “Overhaul” is a more instrumentally focused record than the last couple, which works to its benefit. For whatever reason, the vocal sections Monsterworks has been writing aren't as catchy as the material on “Album Of Man”, which I felt was a vital component of it's success. If that is the case, focusing on the instrumental and death metal elements is for the best, because it takes the attention off the weakest point of the songs.
To that end, I'm not sure quite how to assess “Overhaul”. It is certainly a focused, instrumentally interesting record. At the same time, the vocals add very little to most of the songs, which robs them of the sticky top layer that would allow these songs to become more powerful over time. I'll offer a bit of reserved praise; “Overhaul” is a good record for what it's trying to do, but I think Monsterworks is aiming for the wrong target.