MONSTROSITY - RISE TO POWER - CONQUEST
Welcome back Monstrosity! The Floridian quintet had lost much of its momentum since the release of its promising debut Imperial Doom. The last couple of albums seemed to falter and the highlight of the band's live performance had sadly become a Slayer cover version. Things have now changed!
Rise To Power is an incredible punch in the face delivered with force, skill and passion. It is immediately obvious from the beginning note of album-opener The Exordium (anyone remember Brutality's Cryptorium?) that this Monstrosity is a changed abomination. Returning vocalist Jason Avery might have lost his hair, but he offsets that by delivering a roar befitting a band mastering the death metal art. His voice even reminisces that of older singer Corpsegrinder occasionally. The guitars have a new-found bite to them savaging and maiming without mercy. Talk here is of beefy riffs, meaningful rhythms and even deft leads - no noise solos here! The guitar sound even occasionally veers into Sinister territory. Band leader Lee Harrison is not far behind. His hands and feet work the drums with rejuvenated vigour.
What comes most to mind upon repeated listens to Rise To Power is the album's masterful nature. Everything falls into place on this album. The energy level on this slab of brutality is second to none and given the band's skillful instrumentation Monstrosity has certainly earned a new lease on the fans' attention. Even the dead will be up and paying attention by the time minutes of unrivaled guitar abuse screeches the album to a halt. Rise To Power is a towering surprise from a band many had written off as dead. - Ali "The Metallian"
It seems almost a ‘millennium’ since our Florida heroes released their classic debut album, Imperial Doom. The quality of the band’s impact prompted many to predict a rapid ascent to the top of the death metal heap. However, a combination of business and internal problems took the band by the jugular and handed them a shake-up which has taken four years to resolve. The band, though, has not thrown in the towel and is back with its second full-length. Ali “The Metallian” has drummer Lee Harrison on the phone with many new developments to discuss. – 1996.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: Last time we talked you were negotiating with Pavement Music. Why didn’t the deal go through? I heard rumours that you fired your lawyer because of negotiation difficulties.
LEE: We had a bunch of terms we wanted as a band and we gave these to our lawyer and told him we wanted these in the contract. He sent out the contract and when we got it back Pavement hadn’t changed it. We were like, ‘what the hell!’ It took the lawyer forever – he obviously had better things to do. So, I finally took charge and got on the phone with Pavement. They were like, ‘we’ll call you in two weeks.’ They never did.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: What made them change their mind?
LEE: I honestly don’t know; I never called them back to find out. The lawyer probably drove them away. At the time, we were bummed about it, but now I am glad. It worked out for a reason.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: What is the band line-up now?
LEE: There is myself on drums, ex-Eulogy singer Jason Avery is on vocals, Kelly Conlan, who played on Death’s Symbolic, on bass and Jason Morgan, who was on our demo ’94, on guitar. Mark Van Erp, our former bassist, is not with us anymore because he was caught trafficking drugs. He was convicted and when he got out of it he seemed to be getting back into the music again, becoming interested again. But he got into trouble again and instead of surrendering he fled. No one is sure where he is now, but the guys from Malevolent Creation said they saw him in New York! We are auditioning second guitarists now. Most people can’t cut it, so we are weeding them out.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: It’s a very changed band, especially with the departure of vocalist George Fisher. Knowing that he had joined Cannibal Corpse, why did you proceed to record the album with him?
LEE: We spent all those years working on the record with him, and there was no real disagreement with him. Cannibal Corpse are in a better position than we are and it was a good opportunity for George to take. The songs were written around his voice so, in the end, the product is the best it could be.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: I understand that George is under contract with Conquest Music. In which case, what is his status? Additionally, is the rumour that you are suing Cannibal Corpse accurate?
LEE: George’s status is still to be worked out; it’s all kinda up in the air. Basically, a letter was sent out to Brian Slagel (owner of Cannibal Corpse’s label Metal Blade) sating that George is under contract and that’s about it. It’s written in legal terms so they jumped the gun and thought that we are suing them. That’s not the case.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: Your Conquest Music has expanded from the American home of Monstrosity to a label signing bands. Is this a new business venture on your part?
LEE: I’ve got financial help from members of my family – my sister, who is an accountant, my mom works with the computer and faxing; and a friend, pat, who is helping out in general. We haven’t gotten any American distribution secured yet, but Monstrosity is going through Nuclear Blast in Europe. We have licensed Vader and Darkside from Germany’s Impact Records. We do a bunch of different stuff. We just got a tape from Master.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: How did Monstrosity end up on Nuclear Blast again? You have been vocally critical of that label’s handling of Monstrosity over the last three years.
LEE: Basically, it follows their admitting their fault and paying what they owe us. They admitted that what they did was wrong and apologized. Now we’ve got a new publishing deal with them and a very good recording deal too. Even before their promotion was very good. It was only their accounting that was screwed up.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: Let us move on to the current album, Millenium, and the cover artwork.
LEE: What happened was we contacted SV Bell in Canada. I had an idea revolving around the concept of the album: devastation and the destruction of civilization. Then he comes up with this concept he calls the pollution machine, or whatever. It kinda looked like a salt and peppershaker. It wasn’t that bad. But it needed something. And we told him that, but he wouldn’t change it. Now we’ve gone with some artwork we’ve found through the Internet. The artist, Rick Dunn, has done some artwork for Geffen. It’s not as brutal as I like it, but it’s very good and will catch your eye.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: Tell us more about the specifics of the album. For instance, who recorded it?
LEE: We recorded it at Morrisound with Scott Burns. When we sent it to Germany, Nuclear Blast’s Markus Staiger felt that the drums could be punchier. We talked to Scott about remixing it, but he didn’t want to do it. We ended up going to Criteria in Miami – which is incredible – as Bee Gees, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Black Sabbath et cetra had recorded there. Malevolent Creation have recorded there and they said they’ve see Julio Iglesias pass by. So, we remixed and re-edited it there. Then we had mastering problems. Some of the markers were put in the wrong place. So, we had to correct these problems for the end product, which means that everything has taken longer than we wanted it to.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: And the reason for this interview is none other than Monstrosity’s music. Why don’t we get into that topic?
LEE: It’s hard to describe the music, but there is a spectrum there. Manipulation Strain is a fast song and Fragments Of Resolution is slower. On Imperial Doom we have these doom elements mixed with the fast stuff, and on Fragments… we wanted to expand on the doom elements. That, actually, is one of my favourite songs, but I can see how many purists might say the song is too slow.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: One thing I noticed that a couple of the songs, Devious Instinct for example, sound like Cannibal Corpse while a couple have that Slayer feel to them.
LEE: I think I can see that in the case of Devious Instinct. That song’s main riff was written by Van Erp and our guitarist Jason completed it. Other than that I don’t hear too much Cannibal Corpse. As for Slayer, hopefully it’s the good Slayer and not the shit Slayer.
ALI “THE METALLIAN”: How would your drumming nowadays?
LEE: I think it’s tighter and faster. One our first album the snare was so loud that when it came to playing live, in order to sound like the album, I started hitting the snare harder. It has become more snare-dominant now as a result. It’s still pure Monstrosity though.
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 18.