Apr 092010

Anger plays an important role in extreme metal music. It’s a motivating force in the creative process of many bands. It works its way through the lyrics of many songs. And even when the lyrics don’t reflect anger, a lot of the music just sounds pissed-off. A while back, we got a comment on one of our posts from a guy who described himself as “an old fart.” He wrote this:

“The whole scary-metal scene is confusing to me. You all seem like very literate and intelligent folks, yet you seem to find pleasure in art that celebrates darkness and pain. Do you do it to be ironic or to make a point about how you feel that you have been treated by the world? I saw the word cathartic used – is this music a way of healing some pain that you feel?”

We wrote our own answer to those questions following his comment here, but we don’t pretend to speak for all extreme metalheads. We will make a few other points now: Some bands are angry and probably don’t know exactly why. Some bands pretend to be angry, on the theory that being über bad-ass is one of the keys to success. Some bands are angry about shit that really doesn’t matter.

And some bands really are fucking pissed about important shit, they use the sound of their music to express those feelings (as only extreme music can do most powerfully), and they write lyrics that articulate what they’re angry about.

And then some bands do all that in an even more nuanced way, joining to their anger feelings of rebellion, remorse, resignation, compassion, and solidarity.  Monument to Thieves is one of those bands, and their new self-titled album is worth hearing.  (read more after the jump, and listen to a song . . .)

Monument to Thieves is a hardcore band from SoCal formed in late 2008. It may be relatively new, but most of the members have paid their dues with some impressive outfits: Keith Barney (Throwdown, Eighteen Visions) on vocals, Matt Horwitz (Adamantium, The Agony Scene) on drums, Marc Jackson (Force of Change, Throwdown) on guitar, Dave Itow (The Mistake, Amendment 18) on bass, and Chris Dinicola on guitar. And the new album features guest vocals from Dave Richardson (ex-Force of Change and As Hope Dies).

We got into this band based on a two-song 7″ released on vinyl last year (called Anyone But You) via No Sleep Records (also available on iTunes). The debut full-length hit the streets on March 30, and it’s available as a 12″ vinyl with CD at No Sleep or digitally at iTunes.

There are 9 politically-charged songs on the album, and one melancholy instrumental. Interspersed between the song tracks are samples of people talking — pundits bloviating about California’s Proposition 8, a self-described “economic hitman” (John Perkins) talking about economic terrorism, Michael Douglas and his famous “greed is good” speech from Wall Street, an ex-insurance company claims adjuster expressing regret for denying the claims of sick people to increase her company’s profits, and more.

Those samples set the stage for the songs that follow — which passionately address subjects like the importance of equal human rights, the misleading propaganda spun out by profit-driven mainstream news media, America’s economic manipulation of Third World countries for the sake of corporate growth, the excessive violence that sometimes creeps into the hardcore scene, the evils of predatory Wall Street capitalism, understanding for the apathy and complacency that comes to people who feel powerless, the dark moments that visit all lives, the importance of underground music and the underground scene as a source of community and strength.

The liner notes accompanying the CD are particularly articulate and eloquent in fleshing out these subjects — much more so than the song lyrics. But eloquent lyrics probably wouldn’t have fit the music — which hits hard.

If you’re a follower of Fox News or think Sarah Palin is the Second Coming, it’s conceivable you won’t deeply love this album. If you’re one of those people the band sings about who’ve become apathetic, or you don’t care much about lyrical content in general, there’s still the music:

Hammering bass and guitar riffs, sharp drumwork, furious vocals, plenty of heavy grooves guaranteed to get the mosh pit roiling, a scattering of crushing breakdowns, and touches of melody to keep things interesting. The song structures are rhythmically varied, and this band has got some stand-out playing chops. They’ve channeled anger, and compassion, into a memorable full-length debut.

All the songs on this album are strong, but we’ll pick this one to give you a taste:

Monument to Thieves: The Spin

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