Freaklabel – Monolith

I’d imagine the very mention of the state of Iowa is enough to send red-hot spears of rage through the mind of most metalheads, so, unnecessary as it should be, perhaps I would be remiss if I didn’t immediately absolve Freaklabel of any connection to the nine bemasked characters that are the subject of such distaste throughout our little community. Let’s now turn our attentions to the brighter, shinier band that we have here today, of a more genuinely metallic persuasion, more specifically one that draws influences from groove, thrash, death, with an additional dose of melodic deathcore to even things out. Luckily, the music present on ‘Monolith’ isn’t nearly as unfocused as one would imagine from such a description; instead, it functions very well collectively as a strong, professional contender in today’s metal scene.

My primary reference would be to a less absurdly technical, more groove-oriented version of With Passion. Freaklabel most certainly has a flair for the technical, particularly in the department of guitars (the sweep picking in ‘Subtleties Of War’ and ‘Swelter’ is pretty sublime), but the band knows when to let the tech go for simpler groove/melodeath riffs. There’s a good, even balance between fast and midpaced material, between technical and pit-simple, and it’s all composed with an extremely high degree of professionalism and care. Each of the ten tracks avoids being filler simply by possessing at least a couple memorable passages each, with riffs that never slip into being merely passable or extra repetitions padding out running times.

It’s not an entirely original work; the references to other bands are all around: the aforementioned With Passion, Pantera, Slayer, etc. That’s probably the central weakness to ‘Monolith’: the territory it treads is pretty safe and unexperimental, and I think that the band could do with sticking it out there a bit, even if it does mean a risk of alienating the audience. But even if the path they tread is a rather beaten one, it’s been beaten for a reason, and it’s not a bad listen by any stretch. It’s not entirely without its unique elements; some of the rhythm guitar is strangely complex for this style, such as on ‘The Open Sea”s weird, staggered riffing patterns. Anecdotal, yeah, but it’s there, and it occurs with a level of frequency enough to just separate this band from the pack. Production is very clean and solid, though the guitars could be dropped back slightly, and the bass drums have that weird ‘live death metal’ tone to them which makes no sense on a CD, but whatever.

This is pretty much a genre piece, so your decision to buy rests almost entirely on whether it’s a genre you approve of. If you celebrated the death of Dimebag Darrell, it’s probably not for you. If you actually bought one of the memorial shirts, you can spring for this as well.

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~ by noktorn on July 29, 2007.

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