Album Review: Monsterworks - Man: Instincts [EP]

Every so often I get the chance to hear something that catches me off-guard. I enjoy those moments, not just because they're rare, but because they usually end up being some of the more memorable experiences I have with music. It's not always the case, and many times it's with records I would rather never hear again, but the old adage about any publicity being good publicity does come to mind. Whether good or bad, the ability to stand out from the throngs of music I've ingested is one of those things that shouldn't be taken for granted. It's not easy to cut through the jaded, 'I've already heard it all' attitude that comes along with growing older.

And so, it's with that caveat that Monsterworks' new digital EP should be addressed. Having never heard of the band before pressing play, the experience of listening to these three songs was unlike anything I had expected. The best description I can come up with for the music is something along the lines of a progressive mix of every metal style known to man, capped off with a vocal performance that owes as much to Chuck Schuldiner as King Diamond. An odd mix, I know, but one that definitely makes it's mark.

“The Creation Dream” lulls you with a soft acoustic guitar, before the melodic electrics kick in. Both of these sounds are teasers for the song proper, as the melodic backdrop of riffs serves as inspiration for a schizophrenic vocal performance that runs the gamut from late-period Death worship, to piercing King Diamond shrieks backing up the choruses, as well as everything in between. Calling this 'kicthen sink' metal wouldn't be far off base, though it would give the wrong impression. Instead of being a Frankenstein's Monster made up off cast-off ideas, the disparate sounds come together into one of the oddest songs I can remember hearing recently. Perhaps the oddest thing is how effective the song is in shoehorning all of them into under five minutes, all the while remaining accessible enough to appeal to fans of just about every style of metal there is.

That first track isn't a fluke, as the other compositions back it up with more clever compositions that break every rule I have imagined metal having. “All Suns Die” jumps out of the gate with a swirling guitar line and a 70's pop-flavored chorus, dropping into proto-doom sections with deep growls, settling in the middle with rasped vocals, doing all of this in less than three minutes. Amazingly, the song doesn't feel underdeveloped for the amount of ideas contained in the short running time, and if anything, the brevity makes repeated listens mandatory to get enough of the quirky songwriting.

“Free Will” is more aggressive, introducing doses of thrash to the guitars, mixed enough in the background to become overwhelming. The softer tone keeps the song from becoming alienating, an important step to take with obtuse material. The slow-down into the layered chorus is well executed, and while the song is the most straight-forward of the three, it packs plenty of punch. After two tracks of mind-bending metal hybridization, a more palatable breather is a welcome way to close the affair.

“Man: Instincts” is at times bizarre, at times incomprehensible, and at all times utterly interesting. The experience gives you so much in such a short amount of time that it's absolutely worth the ride, even if you only manage to take in half of everything available.

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