Formed in 2004, Monotheist is a progressive extreme metal band from Orlando, Florida, comprised of vocalist JJ “Shiv” Polachek, Michael “Prophet” Moore on guitar and saxophone, Tyler McDaniel on guitar, bassist Jose Figueroa and drummer Cooper Bates. They play an eclectic mix of brutal technical death metal with progressive influences. Having been around for fourteen years now, they are no newcomers. However, Scourge is only their debut album. Having released only one EP and one demo album before, it was about time they step up their game and come out with a full length record.
Scourge definitely is no album for the faint of heart. Instead of tenderly introducing the listener to the album with an instrumental opener, an acoustic intro, or something similar, Monotheist open this record with a brutal technical death metal track thet sets things straight from the get-go. These guys don’t beat around the bush. “The Grey King” is a fantastic opener for the album that showcases the band’s musical talent and songwriting skill, as well as their relentless brutality, and also contains one of the multiple guest performances this album has to offer in the form of some blistering growls by ex-Scar Symmetry singer Christian Älvestam.
With an opener this strong, the band sets the bar quite high for themselves, but luckily I can say that the rest of Scourge lives up to that. Monotheist find the perfect balance between oldschool riffery reminiscent of their musical predecessors (e.g. Suffocation, Death, Immolation) and a modern and experimental take on the genre that you might find with bands such as Origin or Archspire, while being more than just the sum of these influences. The album contains 62 minutes of into-your-face technical death metal, varnished with a variety of progressive and experimental elements, such as saxophone and flute segments, symphonic interludes (i. e. “Mark of the Beast I: The Image”) and a versatile spectrum of vocals, including deathcore-ish squeals, oldschool growls and grunts, as well as an occasional usage of cleans.
Bands who include such a vast amount of different musical elements into their sound always are in danger to end up with an overloaded or ill-conceived sounding record, but luckily, with Monotheist this isn’t the case thanks to their focused and intelligent songwriting. Every element makes sense in the context of both the respective track it appears on and the album as a whole. Two of the best examples of the band’s great songwriting are the ten minute instrumental piece “Infinite Wisdom” that, despite of its length and lack of vocals, is one of the most interesting tracks on the album, and the following track “Desolate, It Mourns Before Me” that with its multiple breaks and solos might look like a mess on paper, but turns out to be very cohesive and compact, thanks to brilliant transitions. Then again, each and every one of the eight tracks on this record would serve as a great example of the band’s songwriting skills because each and every song is fantastically composed.
If I had to find something negative to say about Scourge, it would probably be that the band’s overall sound doesn’t differ a whole lot from other contemporary technical/progressive death metal acts. But that is only a minor complaint, given how good the music is. As for the technical side of things, I have literally no complaints at all. Every instrument is played wiht precision and skillfulness. And while I found the drumming and bass work to be particularily outstanding here, it doesn’t really make any sense to try and choose one of the performances as the best, given how professional every instrument is played.
In conclusion, Scourge is a more than solid debut album that shows the band paying respect to their musical heritage while simultaneously creating a style of their own. Great songwriting and interesting stylistic elements make this album a coherent, entertaining and impressive listening experience.
With Rivers of Nihil’s Where Owls Know My Name, Slugdge’s Esoteric Malocology and this album already out and new records by Beyond Creation and Obscura coming up, 2018 promises to be an outstanding year for progressive/technical death metal.
You can pick up Scourge physically and digitally from the band’s Bandcamp page.