Alustrium – A Monument to Silence Review

Philadelphia’s progressive tech death architects Alustrium smashed out an album for the ages with their 2015 opus A Tunnel to Eden. The sophomore LP presented a kaleidoscopic, grand in scale masterwork of progressive and technical death metal, featuring serious instrumental and compositional chops, while possessing tons of heart and style. Despite being a little too bloated and ambitious for its own good, the pros far outweighed the miniscule cons to deliver a knockout punch. Punctuated by 2020’s strong Insurmountable EP, it has been a long time between drinks on the full-length recording front. Curiously slipping under the radar, Alustrium‘s third album, A Monument to Silence is now upon us.

“The Hollow Ache” sets the bar high from the get-go, mutating from gently hypnotic beginnings and whispered vocals into a beastly tune, immediately showcasing Alustrium‘s firm grasp of smart songwriting dynamics and brain melting technicality, underpinned by dexterous melodic currents, insidious hooks, and proggy twists. All the trademark Alustrium ingredients are in place, yet A Monument to Silence shows a band not content to coast or create a half-baked sequel to a blockbuster original. A Monument to Silence maintains the band’s ambitious streak, while carving out its own chunk of character. It has a notably darker, edgier tone than its predecessor, almost blackened at times, while the relentless barrage of scattershot percussion, lightning fretwork, jacked speed, and dueling vocals, leaning heavily on the high and low trade-off variants, courses energy, fury, and aggression into the album’s veins.

Deft arrangements and progressive tints do not detract from the fact these cats bring the heaviness tenfold. The album has serious fucking teeth, counteracting the complexity and prog foundations. Take the frenetic tradeoffs and rugged grooves at the midpoint of “Hunted,” or the damaging breakdown rearing up on “Join the Dead” for examples of Alustrium‘s heavier capabilities. Alustrium balance each component expertly into a cohesive whole. The proggified tech is never used as a crutch, while creating memorable songs full of unpredictable twists, character and emotional pull is the band’s bread and butter. Cranking the momentum beyond the high quality early throes, back to back bangers, “The Accuser” and “The Plea,” are like two sinister peas conspiring in a pod, flexing Alustrium‘s progressive muscle and multifaceted dynamics; tinkering with tricky rhythmic patterns, experimental vocal interplay, and complex structures, while dispensing power packed riffs, flashy solos, and seething grooves. The former even sets off some Tool vibes during its early passages.

“Deliverance of the Damned” recalls flashes of Necrophagist and a beefed up The Black Dahlia Murder during its thrashy, tech-death passages. Album pacing is solid, culminating in the epic title track, containing nifty links to the album opener. I often bitch about metal albums that drag past their welcome, or marble otherwise strong material with unnecessary fat and gristle. However A Monument to Silence does not fall into the category of overcooked ideas stuffed into a too small casing. Yeah if I was being a bastard I could scrape the barrel for reasons and shave a couple of minutes, but it would be like separating layers of skin with a scalpel. Alustrium‘s willingness to push the envelope and incorporate surprising turns maintains intrigue. Performances are expectedly outstanding, especially from livewire guitar combo of Mike DeMaria and Chris Kelly (also on shared vocals). The axe wielding duo’s playing is at once adventurous, intricate, extravagant, and still metal as fuck, while Kevin Corkran is phenomenal on the skins, propelling each song with his flowing style and creative, high energy chops. The material screams for a richer, more dynamic master, while the second half of the album ever so slightly dips in quality, but these are relatively minor gripes in the big scheme of things

Alustrium is a class act and A Monument to Silence consolidates their position at the forefront of the modern prog and tech death scenes. A Tunnel to Eden took a while to fully absorb and appreciate, growing in stature over time, so I can see A Monument to Silence following a similar path. Some may miss the overly hyperactive, playful qualities and flair of its predecessor, but I can not imagine most fans of Alustrium‘s prior works being disappointed with what they have served up here. Intelligent, regal, blistering, brutal, and superbly composed, A Monument to Silence is must listen stuff for fans of prog and tech infused death.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Unique Leader Records
Websites:  Facebook.com/Alustrium | alustriumofficial.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: June 18th, 2021


Written By: Kronos

Six years have not tarnished the shine I took to Alustrium’s sophomore record, a Tunnel to Eden. The Philadelphia quintet hit upon a winning formula of modern progressive death metal, crafting ambitious and engaging songs that forgo the genre’s ostentatious leanings. Despite their ambition, the group’s humility and human touch made it impossible not to root for them, and the last year’s excellent Insurmountable EP set the gleam of another Alustrium record in my eye. A Monument to Silence can’t outshine the band’s best work, but it’s far better-crafted and more polished than just about any record like it.

Alustrium are adept stylistic synthesizers, and the best songs in a Monument to Silence are strengthened but not defined by their references. “This Hollow Ache” strides through monumental choruses and delivers a little Fallujah and a little Revocation during its engaging solos. Shades of Insomnium or Harikiri for the Sky color the simmering “Worthless Offers,” and rapid grooves in “The Accuser” recall Gojira with a hint of Kyuss. All stitched together, the style is very much Alustrium, and the band command it well, turning in the same stalwart yet humble performances that made A Tunnel to Eden sparkle.

The shadow cast on A Monument to Silence is due only to the proportions of its predecessor. There’s interest in its varied topography; the slick Björiffs of “Deliverance for the Damned” strike an impressive contrast with the chunky rhythms of “Blood for Blood,” and at its poles the album reaches commanding and sheer heights. Listening from end-to-end, the record is indeed a journey, though the destination is not as clear or as rewarding as that reached at the end of Tunnel. Diverse and accomplished as it might be, Monument’s peaks aren’t quite as high nor its scope as broad as Tunnel’s, and there are a few distinct lulls in the record.

At just over two Reign in Bloods long, I would probably scrap about ten minutes in the Kronos cut of A Monument to Silence. Largely mid-paced, “The Plea” is memorable for a couple very obvious Between the Buried and Me homages, wherein chiming guitars and monotone vocals trio with a simple rhythm guitar ostinato. Alustrium don’t ever hide their influences, but this is such a blatant style shift that the song becomes grating after a few listens. Closer “A Monument to Silence” could do with some trimming as well; though the band produce a compelling climax to the record, the first five minutes of the song are the albums slowest-paced and least interesting.

These missteps dull A Monument to Silence, but their inclusion shouldn’t dissuade you from hearing the fifty great minutes of progressive death metal left on the record. I was disappointed with the record on its release; it’s a less immediate work than the enrapturing A Tunnel to Eden, and my expectations were set far too high, hoping that last year’s “Insurmountable” was a collection of offcuts from an even greater record. But after dissecting the record and stitching it back up, I can’t say it’s not an impressive package, and would not hesitate to say that A Monument to Silence is one of the best death metal records I’ve heard from this year1. 


Rating: 3.5/5.0

Show 1 footnote

  1. Thereby fulfilling Unique Leader’s “one great record per 12 months” quota.
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