Black Swan Annihilation (2016)


Recorded at Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire with Tim Lewis engineering, Black Swan Annihilation is a concept album about mankind’s demise at the hand of an unforeseen cataclysm.  However, a “Black Swan” event is something that is unpredictable so the exact nature of the disaster is not specified and left to the listener’s imagination.  It could have been something that happened as a direct result of meddling with nature or it may be a completely random event that we never had any control over.

The tone of the album is perhaps a little darker than usual although this is mainly down to the theme, rather than any significant change in the musical style; it is otherwise fairly consistent with recent Monsterworks output.  There is a lot of variety and some epic (read: long) songs that makes for a balanced album overall.  There is an ebb and flow in the way of classic albums (think: Sad Wings of Destiny or Sabotage).  While the centrepiece of the album, the title track, is certainly some of the doomiest work of the band, it does turn more positive toward the end as mankind is saved from complete extinction by its own creation.

There was an unusually long gap (about 16 months!) by Monsterworks’ standards between this and the last release.  Black Swan Annihilation was actually recorded in April 2015 but there were several delays in finishing guitar parts and then due to a protracted process of mixing/mastering.  Lewis Childs initially mixed the album but, for the first time, this was done remotely from the band (because we normally all met up at Earth Terminal Studios but that closed down after The Existential Codex was completed) and there was a certain production oversight missing.  Therefore, because it wasn’t quite meeting the vision, Jon took the multi-track files prepared by Lewis and re-mixed it himself, leaving some of the content unchanged (especially vocal arrangements) but going back to the original session tracks for much of it in order to get the most natural sound possible.

Mixing of an album by the artist is a boon and a curse.  You get to spend as much time as you want (not constrained by budget) but you also have a steep learning curve and sometimes don’t know when to stop!  Once the mixing was more or less complete it was mastered by James Plotkin who had been involved with the last two Monsterworks albums.  However, the result was still not quite there yet….mainly due to some issues highlighted in the mix itself which needed correction.  Unfortunately, that would necessitate mastering all over again so the decision was taken to approach Damian Herring of Subterranean Watchtower Studios who had been getting acclaim for the production of his own band Horrendous.  Damian graciously provided advice on the mix itself and supplied several iterations of master before the final version was ready.  FINALLY.  We were there.  In the meantime Jon had been working on 5.1 mixes to bundle with the main stereo mix so the package was complete.

Compared to past Monsterworks albums Black Swan Annihilation has seemed to be a Herculean effort to get ready for release.  Yet while all that was happening, we managed to record the skeleton of two new albums.  So, the process never ends.

The album is released on 24 June 2016 as a free download from Bandcamp or as CD/DVD edition from Big Cartel (or Bandcamp).  The CD/DVD comes with 2 extra tracks that round out the album, one of which is actually a re-recording of “Ascension” from Rogue (2002).