The buzz surrounding Alustrium is not quite deafening but their label, Unique Leader, are excited to have a band on their roster that isn’t deathcore or slam and can hold their own with the contemporary titans of progressive death metal at Century Media (Black Crown Initiate), Metal Blade (Rivers of Nihil) and Nuclear Blast (Fallujah). There’s no doubt the Pennsylvanian quintet can shred their instruments and gurn with the best of them, but can they write memorable songs?
It’s clear Alustrium have little desire to squeeze a million notes and time changes into their songs, although they possess the technical chops to do it. Every musician in the band is at an elite level of accomplishment, and they lack no confidence when it comes to expressing their individual talents. Yet opener, ‘This Hollow Ache’, will have you second guessing yourself when the initial piano notes ring out like the beginning to Paradise Lost’s classic ‘Enchantment’ and creep into a quiet pattern of whispered vocals and guitar arpeggios. You might even be relaxing into your chair when they explode into action at 01:40 seconds with a cacophony of blasting drums and shredding grooves. On first listen, it sounds like being assaulted with a dual vocal approach of guttural and goblin voices until you realise frontman, Jerry Martin, is behind both personalities. He even provides a chorus of sorts with ruminations on being a danger to one’s self in times of extreme isolation. Watch the official lyric video, and it’ll soon achieve its anthemic purpose.
Of course, a key question of this album is whether Alustrium lean more towards tech death or progressive death metal, yet the answer might like in the complex thrash of Vektor and Revocation. ‘Join the Dead’ mixes the exquisite rhythms of Coroner with the sinister menace of Cradle of Filth, while ‘Hunted’ will remind you of the latest Interloper album in the way it lets the double-kick grooves and guitar navigations achieve a harmony of understanding. It’s easy to be dazzled by the technical wizardry of the guitars and exquisite stick work of new boy, Kevin Corkran, behind the drum kit – and you will be for the first six songs of this record. Yet Alustrium have a novella’s worth of words to unleash on the listener, using their musical platform to create a disturbing journey into the mind of a man on the cusp of insanity and self-destruction. ‘The Accuser’ takes the finger-tapping bass melodies of Tool and the syncopated chugs of Alluvial and builds into a mid-tempo crunch of neo-classical guitars and a flurry of passages that you’d expect to find on a Between the Buried and Me album. Jerry Martin descends into a psychotic episode on this and on ‘The Plea’ and leaves you fearing for his state of mind. Thank God he allows himself (and us) some respite with the Pink Floyd-esque interlude of ‘Dreamless Sleep’.
Unfortunately, the second half of A Monument to Silence never reaches the same heights. It doesn’t help that the songs get longer with each new composition, even succumbing to the temptation to cram as many notes as possible into ‘Deliverance of the Damned’. And any song called ‘Blood for Blood’ invites the question if it’s as good as the legendary Machine Head number by the same name – of course the answer is no.
You have every right to roll your eyes when you see the running time of the closing title track. The fact it takes the album beyond one hour of listening time will create a sense of dread, but don’t let it get the better of you. ‘A Monument to Silence’ might be ten minutes in length, but the Dream Theater heroics at the beginning are as impressive as the embrace of a despairing Black Crown Initiate mood in the mid-section. You can appreciate the stamina levels needed at this stage to cleanse their bodies of the last drops of death metal before bringing things to a climax. Listen to the weeping guitar solo at the end and crouch down on one knee to take it all in. Can you feel the air ascending through your nostrils and stinging your nasal hairs?
There’s no doubt Alustrium have arrived with this record, and they’d be racing to the top of the end-of-year lists if they kept things to a sensible running length. Instead, we get a strong effort that misses the spot by a whisker and leaves you wondering how much you’ll enjoy it on repeat listens. This uncertainty will haunt your conscience, but you know this band have even more to offer in the future.
Release Date: 18/06/2021
Record Label: Unique Leader Records
Standout tracks: This Hollow Ache, The Accuser, The Plea
Suggested Further Listening: Scarred – Scarred (2021), Vektor – Terminal Redux (2016), Alluvial – Sarcoma (2021)