For what many people come to know nowadays as “Corpsegrinder’s old band,” Monstrosity has built a sterling reputation for themselves without the Cannibal Corpse front-beast. My first introduction to them was on Death…is Just the Beginning Vol. 2, but that was just one song. My true introduction was on 2007’s Spiritual Apocalypse, one of my favorite death metal records of that decade. Having not grown up in the prime era of Floridian death metal, the sound and the iconic Morrisound production style were awesome relics of a bygone time. With Spiritual Apocalypse, Monstrosity brought that time to the present; the Morrisound production was perfect, the songs were impeccable, and then… silence. That is, until now. The Passage of Existence is the most anticipated comeback for me in years, and after a decade of periodically checking to see if there was new Monstrosity material, there finally is.
Everything about Monstrosity in 2018 screams classic death metal. The Passage of Existence is an apt title, being neither overly pretentious nor gratuitously brutal. The cover features the classic orange and blue color scheme which adorns classics like The Erosion of Sanity and Like an Everflowing Stream. The sound is much in the vein of Spiritual Apocalypse, making it traditional and vital. While it’s clear that Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Deicide, Death, Atheist, and Malevolent Creation are their peers, Monstrosity can’t be confused with any of the above. They’re more consonant than Cannibal Corpse, more dynamic and less thrashy than the blast-happy Deicide, not nearly as stylistically nomadic as Death, less techy and progressive than Atheist, and more complex in both playing and composition than Malevolent Creation and Obituary, but they share the same Floridian death metal impulses at heart. Monstrosity carves their own distinct sound out of elements common to all of the above bands.
Properly restrained instinct is most crucial to the success of The Passage of Existence, as there’s no scientific formula for successful death metal. Much like truly kind and generous people don’t need to frequently regale us with tales of their kindness and generosity, Monstrosity see no need to lord their considerable instrumental prowess over us in an effort to impress young musicians. They instinctively know that those of us who listen to death metal want to be at once gladiators and spectators: we want to get bloodied and bruised in the midst of the mutual and friendly violence, but we also want to be entertained and have an experience to remember. “The Prosleygeist” hits the sweet spot between scalpel and mace, with an unforgettable chorus riff which teases the obvious phrasing of the title-as-chorus but does a head-fake at the last second with a slight variation in the last measure. Complementing this bulldozer of a riff are multiple gorgeous solos, uniquely death metal scalar runs that somehow morph into quality riffs and an almost delicate midsection that works wonderfully both on its own merits and as a transitionary section.
What’s the last great burger you’ve eaten? You can probably tell me what toppings were on it, whether or not the bun was toasted, and what type and quality of meat was used, I’m still left salivating over imaginary food until that burger hits my taste buds. Likewise with The Passage of Existence; the impossibly heavy and refreshing pinch harmonics in the intro of “Maelstrom,” the gargantuan groove in the chorus of “Century,” the inescapably great bass work in “The Hive,” and the perfectly executed finale of “Slaves to the Evermore” look fine on paper, but sound far better in practice. We’re inundated with death metal, yes; but Monstrosity is worth your undivided attention here.
In terms of production, the Morrisound aesthetic is gone and replaced with something burlier and more modern. Audiohammer did the drums, and while I’m not always enamored with their work in this area, Lee Harrison’s performance is captured perfectly and sounds alive instead of entombed in plastic. Guitars and bass are big and clear, which is exactly what Monstrosity’s sound calls for; there’s a lot of interplay between instruments on The Passage of Existence, and it’s all mercifully audible. Mike Hrubovcak’s vocals were recorded at Obituary’s Redneck Studio — an interesting bit of trivia – sounding natural and the right amount of dry. The Passage of Existence is a stunning comeback that was well worth the decade-long wait. Each song is immediately satisfying, yet richly detailed as to warrant multiple playbacks both with a discerning ear and a furiously banging head.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 273 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: monstrosityofficial.bandcamp.com | monstrosity.us | facebook.com/monstrosityofficial
Releases Worldwide: September 7th, 2018