Thursday, March 3, 2011

Catch 22 - Monumetal (2011)

Judging by the cover to this album alone, I wasn't sure if I should expect a catchy throwback heavy metal outfit or a comedy troupe, but Ohio's Catch 22 have actually been kicking around for two decades now, and Monumetal appears to be their 5th full-length, with one of those being released in two incarnations. It turns out that both of my initial suspicions were correct, because the layman lyrics and pomp this band incorporates into their music does come off as unintended humor, and the songs themselves are often very frustrating, throwing out a decent riff or lead here or there and then stomping all over it with generic, grooving slug and chug fest heavy/power metal that evaporates from one ear after all too soon after arriving from the opposite.

Basically, Monumetal moves at one, middle pace, with bouncing, simplistic rhythm guitars that serve only to setup the more interesting melodies. I don't particularly enjoy the tone used, nor did I appreciate the constant grooving rock influence that I'd expect from Dimebag Darrell or Zach Wylde's Black Label Society, or really, any heavy rock bar band in the mid-90s. The bass is often given this loud, blocky tone that distracts from the power of the chords, and the varied vocals of T.J. Berry are all over the place, from shaky heights ("Contained?") to a more menacing mid-range (the acoustic "Downward Spiral"). He throws a lot of influences in here from some good bands, I could hear some Savatage, Omen, Saxon, Iced Earth, and Manowar among others, but they're simply not that consistent, nor are they ever really mixed flush with the music beneath them. But what's worse are the goofy lyrics used in songs like "Switchblade Hate" and "Twisted, Ruined and Black", that had me half-cringing and half-laughing.

It's honestly too bad, because there are a few passages on Monumetal that hint at a band who are clearly capable of far more than what they give us on this album. "Igniter" has a superb intro riff with thick bass and glinting melodies circa modern Jag Panzer, and "Contained?" opens with a melodic glory reminiscent of Running Wild and then swerves into some Sabbath-like grooves. Exceptions to the rule here, though, because most of the album consists of fairly weak chugging dynamics, underwhelming vocal lines and a pretty lamentable stab at a ballad ("Downward Spiral"). I mean, the intro riff to "Switchblade Hate" pretty much sums this up, a mediocre chugged groove using the same general chord patterns that metal, hard rock and grunge bands have driven to death for decades. It just doesn't reek of much effort, and the remainder of the album follows suit. Didn't enjoy this.

Verdict: Fail [4/10]

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