Flayed ‘Monster Man’ – Album Review

This Flayed article was written by Gerard Sykes, a GIGsoup contributor.  Edited by Hazel Webster.

Expect the unexpected…

‘Monster Man’ from the offset seems like a pretty regular ‘copy paste’ classic metal album, but there are a couple of refreshing tweaks that were a pleasant surprise to my cynical ears. After closer inspection I would be more inclined to go for ‘if seventies metal was swankier’ (which I’m not sure is a genre). They describe themselves as “Hard rock seventies in the two thousands” – which is pretty apt.
Flayed hail from France and have a pretty impressive pedigree, with their members having worked with big names such as Children of Bodom, Lamb of God and Cannibal Corpse, respectively. Collectively, they tour Europe and are regulars at the Vienna Jazz Festival.
‘Monster Man’ is their second album – and you get a definite feel for how these guys are veterans from the European metal scene. Vocalist Renato seems to be channeling David Draiman (of Disturbed fame). Guitarist Rico comes out with some absolutely badass licks, and is definitely not afraid to show off when it comes to solo’s.
They cite Deep Purple as one of their main influences, and that is evident when the Hammond Organ takes you by surprise on the first track. This initially sits a little awkwardly in amongst the hard rock, especially during ‘Stanced’, and gives some of the tracks a much jauntier feel than they were probably going for. The more you listen however, the more on board with it you get, and as the album progresses you grow to love and enjoy its contributions.
Title track ‘Monster Man’ has all the hallmarks of a classic seventies hoedown with a repetitive yet catchy riff, driving rhythms and after that the album continues at a keen trot. There is also the occasional cheeky (yet clever) tempo and rhythm change that eludes to their jazzier sides. In fact, the track ‘No Surrender’ has a particularly naughty blues section in the midst of the climactic guitar solo. ‘Up above’ offers up the same experience, with an honest to goodness jazz guitar solo (still with metal-sounding effects) and another slight yet sly blues section.
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The injection of blues becomes more and more obvious as ‘Novel’ draws in with a grungy and unashamedly hefty blues feel and is a pleasant palate cleanser as the keen trot from before slows to a confident swagger. If you thought that Flayed were giving you a reprise, you were wrong, however, as they begin anew with a slightly more punky flavour than before, as ‘Unfairly Pure’ hits you full on with the fervour of earlier tracks and has a suitably tasty bassline and a particularly moreish bridge and guitar solo.
‘Heat of the Sun’ follows up with a nod to ‘Novel’s’ swagger, but the energy is certainly not lost, as the driving beat takes you firmly by the hand and strides forward at a healthy pace. Weirdly, the introduction to the track is a little reminiscent of ‘Superstition’ by Stevie Wonder, which forced a hefty double-take.
‘Too Young for an Old Man’ rounds off the album with yet another fun genre-bending exercise. This time there is a really gratifying country sounding section, which should have been expected given their talent for musical references, but was still a nice surprise. This is a highlight of the album, and was a great showcase of the drummer’s skills who seamlessly transferred from a country shuffle to a punk beat with ease.
The album as a whole is extremely well put together, and eases you gently into the eclectic mix of influences without losing any of the attitude that it puts across. The musicianship of the band in general is fantastic without question, and each member does their (particularly complex) part. The complexity however, is probably one of their main downfalls. As impressive as it is, it may not be quite as accessible as other acts on their scene. The sheer amount of guitar soloing may be in keeping with the band’s style but can wear a little thin for the listener (maybe excluding that particularly devout breed of guitarist we all know and love). Switching up the voice of the keyboard from the Hammond Organ too would not go amiss.
On paper, the amount of mixing of styles mid-song may seem a little schizophrenic, but it’s done with a level of skill that allows you to just enjoy it rather than question their motive. It is a fun album to listen to, and is choc-full of gratifying musical cliches that are done in a way that doesn’t make you cringe – which is no mean feat.
‘Monster Man’ is out now via Flayed.