FROM MONUMENT TO MASSES – On Little Known Frequencies (2009)

From Monument To Masses - On Little Known Frequencies Quick, what do Fear Factory, The Paper Chase and From Monument To Masses all have in common? Give up? Okay. All three bands have sampled Mario Savio’s Body Upon The Gears speech, a speech that was delivered to a sit-in demonstration at The University of California in December of 1964.

Fear Factory used a quote from the speech to great effect on Timelessness, the gorgeous and sorrowful final song of their groove-metal classic, Obsolete. In the song, Savio’s words take on an added level of impassioned defiance, but given everything that’s previously unfolded on the album, this defiance is drowned out by emptiness and despair (which, given the opening onslaught of Shock, is about the last place you’d expect the album to wind up). The Paper Chase took things in a different direction when they used portions of the speech on their debut album, Young Bodies Heal Quickly, You Know; by inverting its spirit, they make these powerful words appear less like a call to action and more like the commands of an unseen but thoroughly domineering enemy. This tactic was extraordinarily effective, as Young Bodies is an album that’s mired in constant dread and paranoia.

By contrast, how do From Monument To Masses utilize Savio’s words? By placing the most famous section of the speech smack into the middle of one their songs, verbatim. Ummm, yeah. Savio’s words carry no power when utilized this way. When they surface unexpectedly in the middle of An Ounce of Prevention, you’re simply hearing one more vaguely political quote in a sea of vaguely political quotes that show up periodically on the album. Now, I’ve never heard any of the other From Monument To Masses albums, so I don’t know how On Little Known Frequencies stacks up to their earlier work, but I can say that the single biggest problem on this album is that all of the songs are too rigid. Sure, they’re music is structurally atypical, in that it progresses in a kind of a free-range, melody-to-melody manner, but none of these songs feel as if there’s any energy behind them or life within them. Ironically, the one song that sounds most convincingly alive is The First Five, and it’s the shortest song on the album (it’s just a hair over three minutes).

As far music like this go, I can’t recommend the album to you unless you’re a post-rock fiend who’s got to be on the up-and-up with every band that could vaguely fall under that massively vague umbrella of a genre. If you’re not one of those folks, I’d say check out either of the two Grails albums that were released last year, and leave On Little Known Frequencies to the curiosity seekers.


One Response to “FROM MONUMENT TO MASSES – On Little Known Frequencies (2009)”

  1. […] falls into the post-rock category is worth getting excited over – I’m looking at you, From Monuments To Masses). What makes Saxon Shore worth listening to (especially on It Doesn’t Matter) isn’t the […]

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