MONSTROSITY – The Eternal Maelstrom

September 6, 2018, 5 years ago

Aaron Small

feature black death monstrosity

MONSTROSITY – The Eternal Maelstrom

“It took forever, but we finally got it out,” proclaims Monstrosity drummer Lee Harrison in regard to the September 7th release of The Passage Of Existence, via Metal Blade Records. Much more than just another death metal album, The Passage Of Existence marks the first new music from Tampa, Florida’s Monstrosity in 11 years; in fact it’s the follow-up to Spiritual Apocalypse, issued way back in 2007.

With Lee being the only original member of Monstrosity in the current lineup, he’s the perfect person to ask, why is now the right time of the return of Monstrosity? “To be honest with you, that’s just how long it’s taken me to get it all together and get it out. Basically, we did some touring between 2007 and 2010. We had just come off a big run right before we recorded Spiritual Apocalypse – 33 shows in Europe. Then we did a Vital Remains tour; we went to Mexico City and did some shows with Marduk. In 2010 we did our last shows, as far as serious touring. I wanted to take the band off the road and just write the record. I didn’t want to try and do both at the same time; I didn’t want to water it down. I wanted to create a little momentum and get the band concentrating on writing the record.”

“In 2011, I wrote the first song which was ‘Eyes Upon The Abyss’. I basically did my own version of it with guitars, bass, a little scratch lead, and all my drum parts; I really didn’t have vocals, I pretty much did it instrumental. Then I sent that off to (Monstrosity guitarist) Matt Barnes, and he sent me back a click and a guitar of his version. So, I poured that into my computer and did some drum machine parts to it. From there, me and (Monstrosity’s other guitarist) Mark English started rehearsing that version. Basically, the way we work is we have everything tabbed out on the guitars, so you don’t have to sit there and show somebody their part; they can read it.”

“The second song was ‘Kingdom Of Fire’, that was Mark English’s song. He came in with a bunch of riffs, we more or less tore it apart and rebuilt it again; there was a lot of that going on. That was how the ball got rolling. From there, we started having more ideas. Matt Barnes sent out ‘Cosmic Pandemia’. Me and Mark English took that and rehearsed it week in and week out. We shaped it up with some small changes to the melodies and structure. I had some of my songs, it was pretty even between all of us, and I wanted it to be that way; those guys are shredders!”

You wouldn’t know it by listening to it, as the sound is incredibly cohesive; yet The Passage Of Existence was recorded at three different studios, all in Florida. “I’ve got to tip my hat to the engineers – Jason Suecof (Trivium, Death Angel, Deicide) and Mark Lewis (DevilDriver, Whitechapel, Six Feet Under) – cause it was a wing and a prayer as far as I was concerned,” admits Harrison. Drums were done at Audiohammer in Sanford, guitars / bass laid down at Ascension Sound in Tampa, and vocals captured at Obituary’s Redneck Studios in Gibsonton. “How that worked was, I spent a week in Sanford with Jason doing the drums. At the time, it was the last days of this wooden barn-like house they had; it was a hand-built drum room. They ended up selling it, so my album and the Terrorizer album (Caustic Attack) were the last ones done there.”

“Normally at Morrisound, it’s a 12-hour day, and you pay for the whole block. That’s cool, but with Jason, I gave him a set price and we went in for a week. So, we could be a little more relaxed about it. We spent two days just getting the tones, changing out cymbals; really analyzing it. Then we’d go back and watch TV for a little while, just chill out. Whenever we felt like it, just go back over and cut some more drums. It was more of a relaxed atmosphere, instead of being under the clock. It never fails, when you go from the band room into that microscopic environment, where every little detail is heard differently, suddenly you’re tense and you’re not playing right. It ends up being stressful. To be honest, it really wasn’t a stress at Morrisound – in the early days it was, for sure, but I learned how to adjust to it. I love Morrisound and I have nothing bad to say about them at all; I wish they were still around. Unfortunately, the studio was sold; that’s how that went. I love Jason Suecof too; it’s great working with him. We worked together on the Rise To Power album (2003). We know each other. I met him in ’97 on the Millennium Tour up in Connecticut. He’s been a good friend for a long time, so it’s cool to work with him – and his productions are killer!”

“Basically, we did the drums with Jason. Then we took those drum tracks to our home studio. We did the guitars here in Tampa, kind of on our own time; that contributed to the lengthy delay, having the freedom to relax and not be stressed by time. There’s always that one thing you want to fix, and while we’re doing that, we might as well do this. Next thing you know, ten more things have been added on. It’s just how it goes. From there, we didn’t have a vocal booth. We could have gone back to Jason’s, but it seemed like a good idea to go over to Obituary’s because I’ve worked with them in the past, and they offered the studio if I ever needed it. From there, we sent all those tracks off to Mark Lewis, and he did the mixing. Mark did that Killing Is My Business remix that just came out from Megadeth, which is killer. He’s definitely got credibility. It was a different way of mixing, because in the past, I’m always there from top to bottom. You have to go through all the tedium of EQ-ing the bass drum, working out the panning. In this case, one day I got an email with a mix – oh, cool! You get to hear it on your own home stereo with speakers you’re familiar with. It happened many a time at Morrisound, I’d go in there and it sounds phenomenal on their speakers, then you get the cassette tape they made for you home, and it’s just not as full sounding. It has a thinness.”

How Monstrosity came to secure the artwork - created by Timbul Cahyono - which adorns The Passage Of Existence is a “great story,” according to Lee. “Basically, the idea I had was the original Horror Infinity demo cover – the Antler guy – it was that character. He’s turned sideways and he’s blowing into his hand; there’s dust in his hand. The dust is leaving his hand and becoming the universe essentially. The dust becomes the planets, and the planets are heading toward something which is a worm hole or a black hole of some sort; that’s on the other side of the image. That was my original idea, which I explained to my singer Mike Hrubovcak, who’s an artist in his own right. He’s done Six Feet Under, Megadeth, Sinister. He did a version of my idea… on a side note, I was in Ybor City one morning and I saw this artwork… it was kind of like a butterfly of some sort, but it created an outline. It just gave me the idea of the outline that’s on the image.”

“From there, we were approached by a guy named Zbigniew Bielak who did the new Deicide, he does the band Ghost, he’s done some Paradise Lost, Entombed. He contacted me and said, ‘I love your band, I want to do your cover. I’ll give you a great price.’ Cool, awesome. So, we sent him that idea; he was going to hand paint it. That way it was like three stages: my idea, Mike Hrubovcak’s realization, and Zbigniew hand painting it. Long story longer, Zbigniew just took too long. He went to Africa on vacation… before you know it, six months rolled by. He kept saying it was coming, but it never came. In the meantime, I’m jamming with Pete Sandoval from Morbid Angel and the new Terrorizer lineup. I’m talking to Pete and he’s showing me this cool new Terrorizer shirt they’re working on with an artist; it became the album cover (for Caustic Attack) So, I asked him, who’s this guy? He told me it was Timbul Cahyono. Pete was saying I should talk to Timbul about Monstrosity, cause he heard me complaining that I didn’t have a cover. So, I did. We sent him the same image, and four days later the guy hit me back; hand painted, it was killer! From there, we had him do some t-shirt designs. He’s been great, I can’t say enough good things about him. No hard feelings with Zbigniew, that’s why I’m talking about him, I want him to get credit too, cause he is a killer artist. It just didn’t work out” A bit of Milton’s Paradise Lost can be seen in The Passage Of Existence artwork with devils battling angels. “Sure, that’s kind of the Monstrosity theme anyway, we had that with In Dark Purity a bit, and Enslaving The Masses kind of has it too.”

Given the fact that there isn’t a song called The Passage Of Existence, Lee reveals why Monstrosity chose that as the title of their sixth studio album. “It was just something I’d come up with right before the album was fully finished. I’m just driving around thinking about stuff, and I ended up coming up with a title. Originally, I had the word passage in my head. I was going to call it The Passage, but that’s generic and obvious. Then for a minute I had Rites Of Passage, but that was unoriginal. I just kept thinking and thinking and thinking, finally I came up with The Passage Of Existence. It fits the artwork too, it’s a different little title.”

Without a doubt, the most intriguing song title on The Passage Of Existence is “The Proselygeist” as it’s a manufactured word, not found in any dictionary. Proselytism is the practice of attempting to convert people to another opinion or religion, and Poltergeist is a famous horror movie, with the definition of the word being a ghost or supernatural being responsible for physical disturbances. “That was my baby, it was the last song written,” recalls Lee. “Things just come to me, and that’s one of them. As far as the song itself, the word preach is echoed a few times. It’s more or less about a ghostly preacher if you will. It just seemed to work, I really didn’t have to think too much on it. Once I had the idea, it kind of wrote itself.”

In closing, The Passage Of Existence is a long album with 12 tracks spanning 55 minutes of technical, interesting Floridian death metal. Yet it doesn’t feature everything Harrison had at his disposal. “We have some extra stuff. There’s a song called ‘Locusts’ that Mark (English, guitarist) wrote. It’s got some cool riffs but for whatever reason, it got put on the backburner.” And, although The Passage Of Existence is brand new, it sounds like fans won’t have to wait nearly as long for a follow-up as Lee confidently states, “I’ve got four songs already for the next one.”

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