In 2015 Tunisian progpower metallers Carthagods released one of those debuts that gets your interest, but ultimately fails to keep it through the entire runtime. There was some promise scattered throughout, though the self titled album was too reliant on its guest stars, with which it opened up. The follow up, The Monster In Me, is a different beast; an evolved form of that which came to light in 2015. This new full length was preceded by the titular track as a video single; the band showcased raw, charismatic power and heaps of dark riffing and captivating melodic play. Now, The Monster In Me isn’t entirely new material, as it has two reworked tracks from the first album; A Last Sigh and Memories of Never Ending Pains. Both have been vastly improved, thanks to the tighter production, the all-round better musicianship and distinctly better mixing that highlights the darks and lows, and gives the music better flow.
Their style lends some oriental flourishes with hints of the likes of Myrath, but without letting it be a defining characteristic. Carthagods instead delve deep into the dark, groovy riffs and massive rhythm play of genre defining giants Symphony X or the darkness of Nevermore. The riffing throughout is heavy, gritty and menacing, guitarist “Artak” delivering venomous riff after venomous riff; from the slower melodic trappings of The Birth to the toxic opening track, to the slowly unpacking melodic soloing and furious leads that unfurl in Memories of Never Ending Pains, the guitars are always interesting, sure to pack a furious punch or curb you in with surprising emotion. Mehdi Khema’s giant voice looms over the album, taking precedence with his spine chilling presence; roaring works like the title track get his angrier dark side, and opening track Whispers from the Wicked even gets some evil harsh vocals, whereas A Last Sigh sees a more relaxed, calmer side.
The Monster In Me is also a very concise, packed together album. The track list is a mere eight tracks, of which two are the aforementioned re-workings of older songs. In just under 50 minutes, there’s no room for bullshit, and the flow of the album flourishes from the massive, punch packing start to the evolving, longer melodic pieces. An interesting choice is the inclusion of The Rebirth II; a symphonic, instrumental track that feels more like an epic score for Game of Thrones or the like due to the sweeping orchestral keyboards, than it feels a part of the rest of the album. It’s certainly more innovative than just tossing in an acoustic version. Still, the highlights remain the ravenous title track and the emotionally colossal Memories of Never Ending Pains. The first album may have had its moments, but this is where to start. Something about it is hard to define, but it keeps growing with each listen, taking dark root; the musicianship and talent is undeniable, the songwriting for huge, dark melodic progpower is impactful, and the monster in me is you.
Standout tracks: Whispers From the Wicked, The Monster In Me, Memories of Never Ending Pains