Album Review: Monsterworks - Man: Intrinsic [EP]

One of the supposed glories about the old days of being a music fan was taking a trip to the local music store, rifling through piles of albums until you found the one you wanted, and then coming home with your new acquisition and letting yourself be encapsulated by the physical experience. Holding an album in your hands is different than clicking a download button, seeing the stacks of records on a shelf isn't the same as looking at a playlist, nor is nostalgia a replacement for the fact that reality has changed. Music is no longer a physical experience, it has been largely divorced from the reality I, and the generations for me, grew up with.

Part of that changing reality is a shift in our own minds as to the way we get music delivered to us. Not every bit of music we consume will be passed out in album form, letting us see more about the artist than a targeted single can reveal. That age is gone, a fact I'm coming to terms with as Monsterworks unveils “Man: Intrinsic”, the second EP that makes up the larger “The Album Of Man.” Being spoon-fed these bite-sized portions does make it easier to absorb the music, but it also lacks a certain something that only a fresh new album can properly convey.

The other issue with this sort of release is that the tricks of the trade lose their edge the more times they are exposed. What was groundbreaking the first time is less so the next, less the next, until even the most original of ideas has been run into the ground. Imagine receiving AC/DC's reputation for self-repetition, but doing it in a matter of two or three records. Therein lies the danger of repeated exposure.

None of that is to say Monsterworks falls into that category. “Man: Intrinsic” isn't far removed from the material “Man: Instinct” gave us just a few months ago, but there is still enough diversity to keep the experience from devolving into a case of deja vu.

“Unconditional Lie” wastes no time getting to the point, jumping into what feels like the middle of a song already in progress. The mixture of harsh vocal styles signals the shift between sections of the song, all of which remain committed to keeping a melodic base to the heavier aspects of the music. But lest you think what you see is what you get, the song takes a left turn and spends ample time exploring an acoustic guitar figure, taking the mood from one extreme to the other. The song resolves by bridging the two sides, pairing the warm electric tones with clean vocals, a fitting melodic coda.

“Taste Of Doom” is exactly what it's title claims to be, a heavier offering that brings to mind the classic brand of doom best exemplified by Trouble. Being Monsterworks, that can't be left to stand alone for long, as the verses turn around and blaze through with double-kick drumming before slowing to the same crushing crawl for the hook to arrive. It's not as sharp as the pop-meets-metal chorus that turned “All Suns Die” into a monster of a track, but few things are.

“Air” caps off this installment, an expanded composition that utilizes the additional time to make the music a more refined journey. The first two minutes are as much of a standard Monsterworks song as there can be, fusing the usual elements to make the beginnings of a solid track. But at that point, the song becomes something entirely different. Slowing down, we're left with a slightly jazzy bass and clean guitar section, with a spacy lead joining in. The end brings the song full circle, culminating in a hook that harkens back to “Free Will”, albeit only in tone, not as an full reprise.

The three songs making up “Man: Intrinsic” are as solid as those “Man: Instinct” offered, but they leave less of an impact on me. For all they have going in their favor, the method of delivery leaves me wanting. As a series of EP's, there isn't enough differentiation between the songs to warrant them being separate releases in my mind. And as pieces of an album, they leave me wanting to hear the work in full, to understand how the parts fit together, and what is left to be explored. So while I enjoy all I have heard of “The Album Of Man” so far, I can't ignore the fact that being teased like this is frustrating. Despite all the advances we have made, that is one thing the old days had going for them.

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