KingBathmat, Overcoming the Monster
Overcoming the Monster is the seventh full-length release from KingBathmat, a prog rock band from England. I came across them earlier this year and downloaded their free six-song sampler, which had one song from each of their six previous releases. I liked it enough that I started working my way through their back catalog, and when they announced the pre-order for Overcoming the Monster, I jumped on it.
Thanks to an early release of the digital downloads, I’ve had the album now for a while now, and I’ve listened to it a lot. In fact, it was the only thing I listened to for a few days there. Musically, I hear similarities to both Porcupine Tree and The Pineapple Thief, but nothing derivative, just a shared love of mixing hard rock with old-school prog noodling. In other words, they’re not afraid to let a song take a while to get where it’s going. If you’re a fan of Porcupine Tree, The Pineapple Thief, Anathema, Marillion, Transatlantic, or Riverside, I think you’ll really enjoy KingBathmat.
Lyrically, the songs address the need to — as the title suggests — overcome the monsters (obstacles) we face in our lives, be they physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. The lyrics are symbolic enough to allow you to apply the songs to your life, and the monsters you might be dealing with. I think this is a good move. The songs could have gone the confessional route, dealing with specific issues — nothing wrong with that, but there’s ultimately a wall built between the song and the listener who’s not going through that exact same thing.
The listener can still enjoy a song like that and appreciate it, but there will be no empathy. The approach KingBathmat have taken with Overcoming the Monster allows each of us to put ourselves and our monsters in the song. It becomes our story. As a result, the songs are very cathartic. Tension, aggression, and ultimately, release.
The production and mixing are stellar. The instruments are distinct and clear, and seem to have lots of breathing room. As for the mastering, I am not an expert in the loudness war, but I would be willing to bet that any tests run on this disc would find a great dynamic range. The soft parts are soft, and the loud parts are loud, as they should be. I don’t know what their budget was for this release, but it sounds expensive (and I mean that as a compliment).
My conclusion: this is something special. I liked their earlier stuff, but this one is on a whole ‘nother level. I believe it will be hard for them to top next time, but I look forward to their attempt.