For 20 years, Miami-born, Columbian-American guitar wizard Juan Montoya has flitted between the ephemeral sounds of shoegaze acts like My Bloody Valentine and the raw pound of thrash and doom metal ground out by his heroes the Melvins and Slayer.
His previous band, Torche, the doom pop band he founded with singer/guitarist Steve Brooks, seemed like a match made in heaven for Montoya’s skills. Montoya could go off on any bizarre arty tangent fit more for King Crimson or Fugazi than an underground metal band – and still only be one measure away from a detuned guitar riff akin to a brontosaurus squashing a raptor.
Alas, Montoya’s musical marriage with Brooks ended with an onstage fist-fight in Houston a few years back. Torche marched on sans Montoya with a string of Eps and tours and the music world has been poorer for the lack of Montstroya, until now.
MonstrO, Montoya’s new band with Atlanta metal vets Bevan Davies and Kyle Saunders and Miami emo-rock homeboy Charlie Suarez , is a showcase for Montoya’s skills that should finally give him the shove from musician favorite (Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher and Soundgarden’s Kim Thayill are unabashed fans) to worldwide fame.
Montoya’s whole bag of tricks is on display in MonstrO’s self-titled debut. In the up-tempo romp “Solar,” Montoya gallops along with the band, dropping a riff here and there until breaking out in an octave chord space rock rampage that threatens to go the distance, until he pulls back and rocks harder until a quick end. In the Jane’s Addiction-inflected “Helios,” Montoya trips out all the way, hitting psychedelic heights Sun Ra might have reached had the man from Saturn downed mushrooms and Hendrix instead of jazz and cultists.
If there’s one fault to be found on MonstrO, it’s that Suarez’s vocals on the ballad tracks are a little too pretty and emo-kid friendly. But as that’s probably why MonstrO have a record deal on the label that launched Dashboard Confessional to rock star status, it’s easy to give them a pass on that. It’s almost a throwback to the 70s, when hard rock bands openly had ballad tracks designed to keep their shows from being sausage fests. By injecting a few slow melodic interludes to dampen panties, the fan base could be renewed in the barroom bathrooms and backseats.
If that’s the plan, I look forward to another five hard rocking MonstrO records that make me fast forward a track or two to get to the good stuff.