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Album Reviews : Monstrosity – The Passage of Existence

By on September 19, 2018

Is The Passage of Existence an album that offers Monstrosity the opportunity to break out from the shadows of their Floridian death metal contemporaries?

Monstrosity is often mentioned as an influential pillar in the revered Floridian movement that centred on Morrisound recording studio in the early 90’s. However, many fans of death-shred are yet to adopt the band in the same manner as they have with the big-four of death metal, or the next tier of bands that include Malevolent Creation, Suffocation and Incantation. Bear in mind the reference is measured in commercial terms only.

Monstrosity’s membership at one time featured Cannibal Corpse vocalist George Fisher AKA Corpsegriner, foundation drummer/percussionist Lee Harrison moonlights in grindcore forefathers Terrorizer as the guitarist (one talented fella!), as did Monstrosity’s guitarist from ‘99- ‘05, Tony Norman. Let us not forget former Death bassist, Kelly Conlon, who recorded on the outstanding Millennium (’96); a real tech-death monolith.

These days, Harrison is joined by vocalist Mike Hrubovcak, long time bassist Mike Poggione, guitarists Matt Barnes and Deicide’s Mark English.

The good news is that The Passage of Existence sounds a lot like the professionally executed offering Monstrosity needed to deliver at this stage of the band’s career.

It’s certainly a challenge to avoid comparisons to Deicide’s grinding Overtures of Blasphemy (’18) given English’s brilliant performance on that album. It sounds as though he has bought many of the same techniques to The Passage of Existence. The obvious difference on listening to the cuts across The Passage of Existence is the absence of almost any other influence outside of death metal and grindcore. If Overtures of Blasphemy is a nod to the death/thrash of the Hoffman brothers (Deicide– ’89-’05), The Passage of Existence is the appropriate response for a band that is almost the premier vanguard for meat and potatoes death metal.

“Cosmic Pandemia” is the albums first cut, English and Barnes deploy a nice tremolo picked riff sequence until a relatively straightforward riff underpins Hrubovcak’s vocal. The picking technique throughout fourth cut “Solar Vacuum” will become the aspirational performance for improving guitarists in the art of shred, ditto for ninth cut “The Hive” with its more restrained and groove-oriented tremolo picked sequence. The solo that starts at 3:26 in “The Hive” is every bit as Satriani as the musicians intend, as is the nice piece of melodic interplay at 3:51.

Harrison’s percussive orientation is squarely focused on locking the guitars in place, it’s not as a swing-infused as the more celebrated Gene Hoglan (Death, Strapping Young Lad), and the performance of vocalist Hrubovcak is a minor cause for critical review.

Easily one of the most challenging vocal techniques to deploy successfully, death metal vocals rely on a strong physical core and a mastery of delivering from the diaphragm. Hrubovcak has these attributes down and he is an imposing frontman, so it’s a pity he lacks a certain presence that would give his voice a timbre all of its own.

Mark Lewis, the wiz who polished recent Megadeth, Trivium and DevilDriver material gives listeners every opportunity to hear what Monstrosity have done across The Passage of Existence. Thank goodness then, that the musicianship, songwriting, solo’s and arrangements are all on point yielding the death metal album of the year so far.

The overall package demonstrates the many years of accumulated experience each member brings to the table to perform thoroughly entertaining tech-death metal. Fingers cross for the band and fans that the album reaches plenty of ears, that enough interest is generated for the band to make a long overdue tour of far-flung territories such as Australia.

Band: Monstrosity
Album: The Passage of Existence
Year: 2018
Genre: Death Metal
Label: Metal Blade Records
Origin: United States

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of Queensland. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal... he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @andymckaysmith