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Monsterbator – Precious Rhino

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Band: Monsterbator
Album: Precious Rhino
Genre: Screaming chaos
Influences: Comparisons could be drawn ideologically to Mr. Bungle, King Crimson (in the Adrian Belew period), The Zoobombs, and similar loud, experimental bands.
By: Lee Mellor

 

 

 

 

My Speakers Just Throttled Me

As a guy who tends to hang out at the corner of alt-country and blues, listening to Monsterbator was certainly a novel experience.

Beforehand, I had downloaded software to unzip their album (which was sent to me electronically), only to find that it had rather rudely installed a number of other undesired programs which I then spent the better half of an hour purging.  So when the opening track of Monsterbator’s 2011 release Precious Rhino “Never Trust a Computer” finally came tearing through my speakers, I felt that our relationship might actually be off to a good start.

My first impression was “whoa, freaky.”  To put it in the words of a friend “I sure wouldn’t do this to someone on acid.”
With a band like Monsterbator, it’s difficult, and probably unnecessary, to comment on the individual tracks.  Sonically, their collective effect is comparable to being ferociously bludgeoned by a nine foot axe murderer.  It really depends if you’re into that kind of thing or not.  The intent of the music is not to catch you with a melodic hook or get your ass wiggling.  Instead, Monsterbator harnesses the power of pure, unrestrained guttural expression.  This is visceral music which shakes and confronts you at the most basic human level.

If the primal scream therapy advocated by Arthur Janov in the early seventies is indeed effective, band members Andy Waterman (vocals), Devon Milley (drums), Stephan Warbanski (synthesizer), Christian Gagnon (electric guitar), and Bradley Morgan (bass) must be some pretty zen motherfuckers.

From the brief research I have conducted online, they certainly come off as unpretentious, which is a welcome change.  Zen motherfuckers or not, I imagine their aggressive approach to music would make for an unforgettable live show – the band’s following on the east coast is a further testament to this.  But I’m here to review an album, so let’s get down to business.

The recording quality of Precious Rhino is exactly what is needed for the project.  The guitarist (Gagnon) and keyboard player (Warbanski) both display a remarkable ear for sound in general, using effects and settings that help them sit comfortably in the mix, instead of becoming muddy and buried.  Monsterbator is an outfit that clearly understands the art of collaboration, and at no time does any one member try to impress with his individual musical prowess (though they probably could).  Like the compositions on the album, these St. John’s lads are functional parts of a greater whole.  That’s not to say that there aren’t some entertaining drum solos and bass runs, because there certainly are, but they don’t overstay their welcome.

If the electric guitars and synths are the lightning that catches our eye, the lead vocals (Waterman), drums (Milley) and bass (Morgan) are the thunder which makes us tremble.  The fury of their performances is unrelenting, and the foundation upon which Warbanski and Gagnon hang their sonic tapestry.

Admittedly, I was concerned after several tracks that Waterman’s idiosyncratic approach to the vocals would become repetitive.  Fortunately, this is not the case, as evidenced in track 4 “Drinkin For Two”, 6 “Teenage Tits” and 9 “The Conversation” where he wisely changes tack to break up the album.  The end result is an album which plays from track 1 to 13 with very few hiccups.  Not a bad debut!

The long and the short of it is: if you dig experimental music, there are good things happening here.  If it’s songs with a capital “S” you’re after, this probably isn’t your cup of blood.  Personally, I think there is room for both, and will be keeping Monsterbator on my I Tunes for the next full moon.

THE GOOD:  Raw energy, a “think outside the box” approach to music, cool sounds, loud and confrontational, excellent musical collaboration, funny band name

THE BAD: Monsterbator’s long term musical appeal will rely on their ability not to repeat themselves, and frankly, some of the songs on the album sound the same.  This is fertile artistic ground to experiment with instrumentation, which the album would have benefited from.  A couple of tracks with abrasive horns, for instance, would have helped to further distinguish them from the heavy metal genre.

THE UGLY: Everything.

by: Lee Mellor
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