What's wrong with the name "Monuments To Ruins" I hear you ask? Well, in the second half of the 2000's, dark years also known as "the neocrust era", such a name had you pigeonholed straight away in the tragically named epicrust box. It was bad enough that dozens of bands all started to ape Tragedy, Ekkaia or From Ashes Rise (none of which actually claimed to play crust but myspace then begged to differ) and quite detrimental when bands with a different, more meaningful agenda also tapped into the horrendous melodic crust lexicon.
Basically, what I mean to express is that they should have picked a better name. I know, straight-forwardness is not a virtue I master.
I first heard of MTR through their interview in an issue of Attitude Problem from Leeds, possibly my favourite British zine of the 2000's. It was a time when the remnants of the lively 90's American anarchopunk scene could still be felt, though one may argue that this type of sound was by then on its last leg, only to be replaced with a new generation of more referential bands (there is good in both, though I certainly miss the punk spirit of earlier bands and tend to be annoyed with the self-consciousness of the latter, but then whining is the path I have chosen). Hailing from Tampa, Florida, MTR can be seen to have recorded a highly transitional work with this 2005 record (it was actually recorded in 2003). While their first Ep from 2000 was strongly rooted in the 90's in terms of sound and aesthetics, this geezer reflects, despite itself probably, the new sound that would prevail in years to come. The 2000 Ep, arguably their best work, is top-notch old-school crust with male/female vocals, armed with the earthy, greasy production you would expect (somewhere between Misery, Nausea and Naftia). Released on the glorious Tribal War Records, it had a proper anarcho fold-out poster sleeve and a massive booklet with lyrics, artwork and literature (I'll grant you that some drawings were so pixelated that you can tell the exact year of production just by looking at them). Basically it was your typical, 90's Tribal War/Profane Existence/Skuld Releases ecocrusty political punk records, and I say this with the highest regards for a genre I hold dear to my heart and that takes a significant amount of room in my flat.
It apparently took longer than planned for the 12'' to happen, but it was released on Arizona-based Catchphrase Records, a label also responsible for goodies such as Contravene and Axiom, two of the very best US bands of that period. The sound is more polished than on the Ep and you can hear a modern influence creeping in at times, especially in the guitar leads and in some slower, instrumental, moody parts. But it is still really solid, intense and passionate metallic crust punk that brings to mind aforementioned Misery, Nausea, but also Detestation (in the faster, hardcore-sounding moments), late Antiproduct and even Civilised Society? (I had to mention a British band at some point, didn't I?).
Or Morne (completely anachronistic but there you go, you'll hear it too). Why, you ask again, interrupting me for the second time already, completely ignoring the "three stroked and you're out mate" golden rule? Because MTR played synth-driven music. And nothing gets me quite as excited as synth-driven crust music. I personally would have added more of it, but each time the synth is used, be it for a good ole Amebix/Axegrinder atmosphere or just wind or rain effects, the songs really take off. Besides, it fits perfectly with the mood MTR managed to create here, something dark and desperate but still ready to bite.
Only four songs here, but they are well written and well worth your time. In a sea of often similar-sounding bands, MTR definitely had something more and in the end, that's how bands and records stand the test of time.