Reviewed: May, 2018
Released: 2018 Eat Lead and Die Music
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Monsterworks may well be the most prolific band you never – or maybe just barely – have heard of. Scale and Probability is the 16th album from the British by way of New Zealand quartet, which has been cranking ’em out on a pretty much yearly basis since debuting with Dimensional Urgency in 2000. Most of that work has been self-released with but a few forays onto small labels. Scale and Probability follows suit self-release wise, being issued through the band’s own Eat Lead and Die Music.
Monsterworks’ sound might best be described as progressive metal, as the band are fond of fairly sprawling, jammy arrangements. Still, at the same time, they are not averse to offering shorter, punchier tracks to shake things up, a la Mastodon, though with more of a thrashy/death metal edge.
Scale opens with the deliberate, Katatonia-like melancholia of the eight-plus minute “The Great Silence,” which is followed by the doomy, groovy, post-metal of the six-minute “Weight of Emptiness.” It makes for a rather achingly slow start, but that gives way to “Cosmic Deadly Probe,” a 2:43 death metal-tinged rager powered by drummer James’ skittish backbeats. “The Revea” and “All Truths Be True” follow with similar “short and sweetness” and bring back the groovy/post-metal hues with their quiet, moody passages punctuated by crunching hooks and turbulent rhythms.
Monsterworks then shift back into progressive gear to close Scale out with the serpentine “Ockham’s Razor,” a magnum opus that slithers along for 12:30. It features the album’s most expressive guitar playing, with several sections of extended, squealing leads, including the fairly frantic crescendo.
Though much is made in the band’s promo materials about the fact that the album was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales – where Queen, Black Sabbath and countless others worked before them – and mastered by the legendary Dan Swanö, Scale has a raw, sparse, almost demo-like sound. And while that’s all good and fine for the metallier moments where the band are able to muscle through, when things mellow out or they handle some of the more delicate material the album’s distant production makes it tough to take it all in. Everything is oddly faint.
Same thing goes for the vocals throughout here. They are consistently pushed to the far end of the mix, making it seem like frontman Jon is hollering from down the hall. I’m all for taking a stand against the “Loudness Wars,” but the band take things too far in the other direction here, which is a shame. The material is intriguing and well-balanced, it just loses much of its impact from its understated production.