Monstrum - VIII dzien tygodnia 4/5

Reviewed: 10-12-07


1. Monstrum
2. Sowa
3. Krzy
4. Otchan ycia
5. List
6. 21:37
7. Przemijanie
8. VIII dzien tygodnia
9. Po drugiej stronie lustra
10. Lukrecja

Quick, name your 3 favorite heavy metal bands from Poland! (No cheating by going to the Metal Archives site, either.) It's not so easy for most of us. Sure, Turbo is relatively well known but their best work was more than 20 years ago when they played Maiden-inspired thrash, after the band's ho-hum hard rock stage and before their one-dimensional death metal stage. Kat is also on the radar screens of some with their lengthy thrashy discography, although I will admit that I've never heard them. Ceti is much-revered in certain quarters. There are others, to be sure, but my point remains that Poland's imprint on the international heavy metal scene is not as pronounced as one might hope, given that nation's undeniable affinity for this music, as documented in the fine 'Bard' print fanzine originating from that nation. Enter Monstrum, a Polish sextet whose 2 CDs, 2004's 'Za horyzontem ciszy' and this year's 'VIII dzien tygodinia', are highly recommended to most readers of this site. Read on...

Monstrum immediately earn cool points for their vaunted triple-axe attack, an altogether underutilized configuration in the power metal field. Sure, Maiden has 3 axe-slingers, but the 3rd guitar is wasted because most of the music is written and arranged for just 2 guitarists. And Leatherwolf made quite a splash back in the day for having a triumvirate of 6-stringers, even though Olivieri was definitely a singer first and a guitar player 2nd. With Monstrum, the triple-attack doesn't feel like a cheap gimmick: it really works. Almost all songs have sections with 3 distinct guitar lines, adding depth, power and richness to the music. As for the music, think mostly midtempo traditional heavy/power metal in the Eastern European style, with distinctive melodies that would not sound out of place on an Aria CD and a definite classic Maiden feel in places. There are no or virtually no keyboards, but the band does employ a guest violinist who adds spice to a couple of songs. The mid-range vocals of singer Mariusz are pleasing and strong, if slightly quirky or off-key in places, but in a charming way. Perhaps a reasonable comparison would be to liken Mariusz's voice to the Stainless Steel (Hun) guy, but with all those hard-consonant Polish-language lyrics flowing smoothly and easily. (As I peruse the lyric sheet, I ponder: Is there a single word in the Polish language that doesn't use the letter "z"? Those suckers are everywhere. If I ever played the Polish 'Wheel of Fortune', I'd pick the letter "z" in every puzzle.)

As always, though, it's the songs that make the difference. The catchiness factor in the guitar melodies and choruses is tremendous, and seems to have improved since the debut. There are a couple of better-than-average ballady tunes and a good instrumental, but everything else is pure catchy, anthemic melodic power metal, with songs hovering squarely in the 4-5 minute range. The music may not be demanding or challenging, but it is extremely well done, quite memorable, and utterly fun. Some of the choruses are so rousing, infectious and grand that I find myself singing along at the top of my lungs, even though I'm butchering the words and have no idea what I'm saying. What a hoot. If you like the Russian and Hungarian brands of traditional metal (and who doesn't?), and if you appreciate foreign-language lyrics, you owe it to yourself to check out Monstrum posthaste. A new star is rising in the East, and its name is Monstrum!




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