Saturday, December 24, 2011

Album Review: Substructure - Monolith

St. Louis, Missouri’s Substructure (David Bruno, Jordan Sanders, Kevin Dannerman, Joey Harrel and Joey Nichols) is a group of five guys crafting a sound that they prefer to refer to as “Intergalactic Space Djams.” After a thorough listen, I’d have to agree that the label is pretty accurate. “Monolith,” released in late August of 2011, has set the group on a definitive path to respect and attention.

“Monolith” starts off with “Cassiopeia,” a brilliant piece of art that transcends from extraterrestrial to extremely heavy within a matter of second. Much can be derived from the overall concept of the album in this first two minutes of the EP. A flawless transition leads into the second track, “Canis Minor.” A whirlpool of intricate guitar and drum work are held together by a constant lyrical theme of lost sight and camaraderie, reaching a crescendo with the line “Rise up, this disunity is killing us. We must bond together or this world will bury us.” An interlude at the end of the second track leads right into the third. “Canis Major” is as beautiful as the first two are heavy, retaining the concept with lyrics such as “We must end this constant struggle: awaken the ghost in the shell. We must end this constant struggle: revive mankind from hell.” Over twice as long as the first two tracks, ranging from smooth and jazzy to hellishly intricate and complex, this number is refreshing and unique. “Canis Major” displays ingenious harmonies, effects, beats and leads, highlighting the musicianship and compositional prowess these lads possess.

As the EP begins its final descent into “Telescopium,” Substructures flexes their undoubtedly powerful minds again, pulling some massive tonal shifts without even thinking about asking for permission. “We have fallen to the ground, but the truth it we have the strength to abound” rings out as “Monoceros” roars into sight. Staying in the form of the previous songs, the EP’s fifth track breaks into a groovier side of Substructure’s sound which keeps the listener guessing – as always. With the end unfortunately in sight, “Cephus” rears its head, igniting a salvo of jazzy leads, otherworldly synth pads, opulent ghost notes and rampaging “djent” riffs. After a moments respite, searing leads sweep in and carry you into a Born of Osiris-esque savvy synth break before bringing an apocalypse of low-string open note strikes and palm mutes, complimented with off-beat snare shots and guttural vocalizations that brings “Monolith” to a close.

My first listen to Substructure’s EP was ground-breaking, personally. I listened to it multiple times a day for the first week afterwards and still listen to it regularly. While “Monolith” packs in six songs (one more than most EPs have), there is so much thought put into every single riff and section including a variety of stylistic exploration within each song that makes it all but impossible to deny the strength and quality of their musicianship. Any enthusiast of extreme music will be able to find something to applaud on “Monolith” – be it the perfectly places interludes, dazzlingly original synth pad usage, amazing guitar work, incredibly drumming chops or brilliant vocals.

You liked Born of Osiris’ “The New Reign,” The Faceless’ “Akeldama,” and Structures’ “All of the Above” – you are going to love this brilliant piece of Intergalactic Space Djamage.
10 out of 10, on all fronts.

--Donnie Vitanovo

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