Black Swan Annihilation
Eat Lead & Die
Reviewed By Simon Crawley
There is a striking air of enthusiasm about the UK’s Monsterworks which is also admirable when you think that the band has been around for well over a decade, churning out albums and sticking together as a unit the entire time. The release of Black Swan Annihilation coincides rather aptly with the recent drama of England’s exodus from the European Union; and the album itself, much like the band’s overall style of metal, has an irregular and disruptive nature about it.
Super metal is one way to describe their sound, and with such packaged diversity it’s clear to see why. The enthusiastic aspect to it nestles closely alongside the progressive drive in drawing from a host of influences. There’s a lot going on in Black Swan Annihilation, but it never seems too intense or weighted. The real substance is in the creativity – plenty of riffs, melodic meanders and waves of groove. It’s that degree of heavy that’s not too heavy; expansive and adventurous without being too much to take in. Immediate parallels can be drawn between this and the likes of Dream Theater – metal pushing the technical boundaries of melody and tempo. The title track is the longest and also the prime example of this with plenty of attention given to almost drawn-out, black metal riffs, growling vocals and melancholic melody. On the other hand, there is plenty to enjoy when Monsterworks bundle it all tighter together in songs like the opening “Immortalist”. The fatty bits are trimmed off, exposing the juicy middle of what also lies at the centre of what these guys can do. Vocalist Jon is also stronger when belting out screams that accompany the waves of riffs and drum blasts. To this extent, the album starts strongly with “To Have Done What Must Be”, somewhat following suit and then “Unbridled Force of Nature” injecting some very good emotive melody.
It is at roughly the mid-point to the album that the title track ushers in the band at its most ambitious. The breaks are put on quite considerably within the nine-plus minute song; revealing a doom-like side to Monsterwork’s capabilities. There are waves of wailing guitar and deep, growling vocals for more of a dramatic feel. This spills over into “Vanishing Point” which carries an old school metal vibe; theatrical and folkie in parts but still overtly doom-like. The riffs are thicker and at their most punishing here providing for good contrast overall. A deep breath is taken with the acoustic guitar-lead “Unbeheld” before a final plunge in the eight-minute closer “Archivo Omnia”. This could have been two different songs and there is a clear departure halfway through, but either way, the progression is interesting with some great musicanship and songwriting on show.
The dynamism to Monsterworks means there is metal drawn from a range of influences and, in this sense, it’s an album that might appeal to a variety of fans. Sometimes it can also mean a lack of continuity that renders the band drifting in the sea of metal without a strong enough paddle.