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cover-monstrosity02On “Millennium” Fort Lauderdale underdogs Monstrosity manifested itself as a veritable force in the Florida death metal scene. Whereas its “Imperial Doom” debut was heavily redolent of Malevolent Creation, the band from whence Lee Harrison came, “Millennium” conclusively proved that Monstrosity was compositionally – and technically stronger than a good deal of its regional, more marketable peers. Despite its obvious merits Monstrosity remained only in the second-tier status as its frontman George Fisher would soon decamp to front the iconic Cannibal Corpse.

Disagreements concerning the distribution of royalties resulted in a split with Nuclear Blast Records. The termination of contract with Nuclear Blast Records led founder Lee Harrison to release future Monstrosity efforts through his own label imprint Conquest Music Group. Conquest Music handled distribution and marketing in North America, while Nuclear Blast and Hammerheart Records licensed it for European territories. A few changes in the personnel happened Death alumnus Kelly Conlon replacing Mark van Erp on bass guitar, and Jason Morgan substituting for Jon Rubin. Despite these changes former members Jon Rubin and Mark van Erp contributed to a few songs, while the majority of “Millennium” was written by Lee Harrison and Jason Morgan.

While its kinship with Malevolent Creation remains obvious through its writing Monstrosity offers everything you’d expect of a Florida death metal act. Lee Harrison is probably one of the best drummers in the region, and it's somewhat insulting that he’s still considered second-tier by many. “Millennium” is technical, and thrashy in equal measure while offering bouts of melody and groove simultaneously. Whereas on “Imperial Doom” Harrison’s drumming was mostly about speed on “Millennium” his playing truly becomes integral to each of the cuts. Some of his best work is to be found on tracks as ‘Devious Instinct’ and ‘Dream Messiah’. ‘Fragments Of Resolution’ is the sole dirge-tempo track of the album, and gives Morbid Angel a run for its money. On his swansong appearance with the band frontman George Fisher, who would soon decamp to join the much more marketable Cannibal Corpse, is in fine form. His ascending-descending vocal lines, much to Harrison’s credit as a songwriter, are legendary.

All music was written by Jason Morgan and Lee Harrison, except ‘Manic’ and ‘Stormwinds’ were written by Lee Harrison and Mark Van Erp, ‘Manipulation Strain’ and ‘Slaves and Masters’ was written by Jason Morgan, Lee Harrison and Mark Van Erp. The latter also has the only lyrical contributions from frontman George Fisher with this band. ‘Manic’, ‘Stormwinds’, and ‘Slaves and Masters’ were re-recorded from the self-distributed 1994 “Demo ‘94” tape. ‘Seize Of Change’ was written by Jon Rubin and Lee Harrison. The album features guest vocals by Jason Avery on ‘Devious Instinct’, ‘Dream Messiah’, ‘Fragments Of Resolution’ and ‘Slaves and Masters’. Avery, a veteran of local death metal unit Eulogy, would come to supersede Fisher who moved on to bigger opportunities with fellow genre specialists Cannibal Corpse.

“Millennium” was recorded and mixed at Morrisound Studio with Scott Burns handling the production. The Scott Burns mix was found unsatisfactory, and the album was remixed at Criteria Recording Studios by Keith Rose and Scott Kieklak. Compared to the gritty and lively “Imperial Doom”, “Millennium” sounds rather dry and sterile. Harrison’s drum tones have gained in range and textural depth but don’t possess the same amount of body as they did on the band’s debut. Monstrosity inadvertently became a victim of 1990s computer generated imagery with its Richard Dunn canvas. Unfortunate early digital art aside “Millennium” is a formidable genre exercise.

Despite cementing Monstrosity’s status as one of Florida’s most accomplished units “Millennium” never quite catched on as records of the time from the likes of Deicide, Malevolent Creation, or Morbid Angel. Widely regarded as one of the best Florida death metal acts the output from Monstrosity isn’t as profuse as some of its more popular and prolific brethren. Its outstanding and consistent level of high quality product has only been matched by Waldorf, Maryland icons Aurora Borealis or Poland’s Lost Soul. Reliability, despite the fluidity of its line-ups, aside Monstrosity is still considered a second-tier band despite its penchant for perfection, and aversion towards making artistic compromises. For that reason alone Lee Harrison and his cohorts deserve accolades for remaining true to their vision, and keeping their collective integrity intact where lesser bands would've fallen before similar hardships.


Boldly continuing her artistic reinvention Vanessa Carlton has allowed new influences to seep into her contemplative piano pop. “Blue Pool” holds the middleground between her introspective direction of the last two albums, with a more profound Tori Amos influence. “Blue Pool”, and its companion album, have stronger links with Carlton’s pre-“Be Not Nobody” demo recordings than of her other major label albums. The dreamier aspects of “Blue Pool” are reminiscent of the first two Florence + the Machine albums.

“Blue Pool” is the first batch of new material since “Rabbits On the Run”, and it is meant as a precursor to a new album called “Liberman”. The EP largely follows the direction of the preceding album but the material is stronger all around. Carlton feels more comfortable in her new direction, and the songs reflect that confidence. In the years post-"Harmonium" years anessa had been steadily shedding most of her overt pop trappings in favor of a contemporary return to what she did on her demos. Carlton’s current direction is focused around the same kind of minimalism, introspective atmosphere and absence of ear worm pop hooks.


No longer restricted by commercial considerations Vanessa is now writing music that plays up to her strengths. The absence of any notable pop hooks allows her to further explore her low register vocals that always were superior to her often nasally high register. Having forgone hooks in favor for more resonating material the tracks on “Blue Pool” are more languid and pensive than anything on “Rabbits On the Run”. Some will probably decry the lack of instantly recognizable hooks and the inclusion of folk melodies instead of regular pop ones. In drawing from a variety of influences, and taking her music back to its roots, Carlton now sounds more confident than ever. The minimalist arrangements of her demo songs were lost as the production values of her early albums increased.

Vanessa underwent a similar artistic evolution as her contemporary Michelle Branch. Both started out as bright-eyed pop stars that appealed across demographics. Branch would cut two light pop albums before breaking with the industry that forced her into directions that weren’t her own. Branch eventually briefly reinvented herself as an alternative country singer. Carlton on her part reconnected with the Tori Amos influenced direction of her demos to shape the sound of her future. “Blue Pool” fuses Carlton’s past with a dreamlike direction wherein her future may very well lie.

By adopting light electronics and infusing her piano-pop with ethereal soundscapes Vanessa now simultaneously sounds vintage and contemporary. Some of the electronics wouldn’t feel out of place on a Casey K. or Polaris Rose effort. The dreamier, ethereal aspects recall the first two records of Florence + the Machine. The basis for the songs is still Vanessa’s voice and her stellar piano playing. No longer bound by big label pressure, and producing her own releases, Carlton has liberated herself from the pangs of commercialism. “Blue Pool” is the realization of a sound debuted one album prior. It is the completion of the transformation that “Rabbits On the Run” merely hinted at.

Like “Rabbits On the Run” before it the “Blue Pool” EP was recorded at Real World Studios in Wiltshire, England with Steve Osborne producing. As with any of Carlton’s self-produced efforts the production work is stellar. Even though her albums have lost some of the gloss of her A&M and The Inc. output Carlton’s voice, both literal and artistic, has never resounded clearer through out her work. On “Blue Pool” Vanessa is comfortable with the direction she has chosen for herself. While she might not have graced the world with another ‘A Thousand Miles’, or even a 'White Houses' she’s now closer to the direction of her demos than she ever was before.