MonstrO, MonstrO

MonstrO, MonstrO

These days it feels all too rare to find a “heavy” band that doesn’t fit into some neat little categorization or sub-categorization — doom metal, stoner metal, black metal, all these rigid little boxes upon boxes bands get shoved into based on some little twinge of an influence or a slight difference in their overall sound. And sure, I’m as guilty of it as anybody, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the days when a rock band was just a rock band, with no apologies or add-ons.

Enter MonstrO, whose self-titled debut is one of a very, very few rock/metal albums that’s practically for anybody who happens to be into heavy music with pounding drums and loud guitars, on one level or another. There’re jittering, precisely-placed stutter-stop guitar bits for the prog/math-rock heads, fist-pumping, anthemic melodies for the arena-rockers, speaker-crippling basslines for the stoners and doom-metal dudes in denim, cleanly-played melody leads that could’ve been swiped right out of the Jimmy Page songbook, and even some little surprise bits of dreampop-y swirliness floating around in there.

Put all together, it’s one hell of a massive, epic album, making the quartet — frontman/guitarist Charlie Suarez, drummer Bevan Davies, guitarist Juan Montoya, and bassist Kyle Sanders — come off like spiritual kin to bands like Red Fang, Torche (which makes some sense, considering Montoya used to be in Torche), Mastodon, or Priestess. The Priestess resemblance feels the closest, to me, given the two bands’ ability to meld head-jarring prog-rock bits into thundering, crashing almost-metal and make it work, not to mention the similarity between Suarez’s delivery and that of Priestess singer Mikey Heppner. “Stallone” and “Solar,” in particular, make me think of the Canadian band’s “Murphy’s Law,” and that’s no bad thing, believe me.

From the heavy, pseudo-metallic bombast of “Fantasma” onwards, MonstrO barely stop to take a breath for a full half of the album, blazing through the awesomely melodic “Anchors Up!” — hands down the best, most instantly addictive track here — the paranoiac, crunching “Concertina,” with its nicely Chavez-like guitar line towards the end, and “Stallone,” which I think might be about Rocky, although I can’t be sure. Then the band shifts smoothly into “Olympia,” which drifts along sleepily while retaining a heavy, nearly Pelican-like feel and steadily builds to a seemingly tormented crescendo as Suarez begs for sleep.

“Solar” is chugging and propulsive, stomping along at a breakneck pace before the band gets moody and dark and quiet for “Elizabeth,” “Helios,” and “Apollo” (although the latter practically explodes close to the end). The quieter, slower-moving songs aren’t bad, by any means, but they unfortunately do derail some of the album’s momentum, and I find myself wanting to skip back to run through “Anchors Up!,” “Concertina,” and “Stallone” for the millionth time, instead.

The MonstrO guys bring things back upwards, though, with closer “April,” which swoons along like a long-lost Smashing Pumpkins outtake if that band had ever collaborated with Soundgarden, with Suarez’s sneering, bitter vocals and Kyle Sanders’ limber, mobile bassline; like MonstrO‘s first half, it’s fiery and impossible to ignore, a great bookend to the whole set.

And at the end of the day, it all works, the whole damn thing — it’s just this wall of pure, genre-crossing rock that you can’t help but gape at, amazed, and before you even realize you’re doing it, you’re banging your head and happy as hell.

(Feature photo by Evan Bartleson.)

[MonstrO is playing 9/29/11 at Warehouse Live, along with Kyuss Lives! & The Sword.]
(Vagrant Records --; MonstrO --; MonstrO (Facebook) --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Thursday, September 29th, 2011. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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3 Responses to “MonstrO, MonstrO

  1. Angie on October 3rd, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Great review. This band is like nothing else right now; pure rock!!! Hope them all the success!!!

  2. Rick suarez on October 4th, 2011 at 12:31 am

    This band is everything ive ever wanted to hear from a rock band. Beautiful Melody, heaviness, and insperational lyrics and quality. Diverse. Reaches to all the furthest ends of all musical dreams and beyond. It pinpoints everything everybody ever wanted to reach from the first time they heard zeppelin, floyed, and sabbath which leads them into begging their parents to buy them a les paul and a jcm. History WILL repeat itself. Watch out legend bands! You got one hell of a competition coming your way! Monstro WILL take over!

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: MonstrO + Girl In A Coma + Finnegan + Sundress + Texas Massacre + More on December 10th, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    […] this one over the top for me; I’ve fallen hard for their self-titled debut (reviewed over here), to the point where I have to keep it in the car in case I feel the sudden urge to hear […]

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