That cover evokes a sense of mystical space-lore and to a degree the totality of the universe. The art is fittingly fantastic for an album that really takes the melodic death/black metal mold and transcends galactic boundaries with the intensity of a blazar storm. "The Three Metamorphoses" pounded me with a stark realization of just how far these guys have progressed. Gone are the blatantly Gothenburg riffing, the metalcore influences, and the lame chugging, instead replaced with an explorative, open-ended sound that creates a spacey atmosphere. The synthesizers now take a more directly space-influenced vibe and the guitar leads and solos are just as spacey sounding as the synths. The solo on "Heywood R. Floyd" is layered with dense symphonics that really bring out that feeling.
Another thing I noticed right away going into Encounter The Monolith is that the tracks are much more progressive in nature and each track covers from six to nine minutes as opposed to the shorter, direct song structures of their debut. "Discovery" takes a page from Deathspell Omega's cult bible and works odd chromaticisms into the songwriting. For the most part the songwriting never reaches any degree of self-indulgency which is great and somewhat surprising. Instead Martriden focuses solely on creating a cohesive, isolationist space vibe that really sticks throughout all of Encounter The Monolith. The title track covers all of these elements perfectly.
The production is another issue, and one that hasn't improved that much since the debut. The bass is a bit more prevalent this time around and the synths being geared towards creating a stark atmosphere really helps Encounter The Monolith. The hi-fidelity recording makes this release somewhat unique in that it's done well for melodic death/black metal, and doesn't hurt the theatrical space-vibe of the album. It's amazing to see how these guys have matured since their meh-weak debut. Also there's no track called "Intro" on here, which makes it infinitely better in my book.
8.0 out of 10
|1.||The Three Metamorphoses|
|2.||Heywood R. Floyd|
|5.||Encounter the Monolith|
|6.||Death and Transfiguration|