Failure's last studio album, 1996's underrated Fantastic Planet, arrived a little too late to the stadium alt-rock party to make any kind of significant commercial impact, due in large part to label woes and heroin addiction, but it offered up a master class in emotionally spent, melodically charged space grunge that managed to accrue a huge fan base as the years went on. Released in 2015, The Heart Is a Monster picks right up where Fantastic Planet left off, even going so far as to add to the sequence of instrumental (and incremental) segues that the band laid out on the former. Failure have also found a way to retain their gargantuan net of sound, though they manage to punctuate things this time around with some more pronounced pop elements. Dense and muscular shoegazey guitars and cavernous percussion abound, but Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards have amassed enough musical and life experience over the last 20 years that the album feels most alive when it's pushing against the traditional alt-rock framework. Echoes of Pink Floyd, Flaming Lips, and late-period Trent Reznor surface throughout, and while the lyrics still bristle with discontent, they're less defiant and more concerned with the journey than they are the inevitable descent/ascent to oblivion.
The Heart Is a Monster Review
by James Christopher Monger