Of the eight tracks on Growler, the debut LP from Raleigh/ Carrboro trio Monsonia, not one dips below the three-and-a-half-minute mark. Only one breaks past five minutes. For a largely instrumental trio generally sandwiched somewhere between math rock, post-rock and heavy metal, these facts offer reward and surprise: Though Monsonia punishes with patience, the trio doesn't kill with it. It takes its time, Nick Petersen carefully controlling the movement of his thick bass and Andy Willard occasionally drumming in soft circles and slow slinks. But Monsonia bridles repetition with fulfillment, and vice versa. Eventually, the band almost always charges ahead at the perfect moment, launching itself from sinister brooding into visceral demands. Growler's pale darkness beckons. When the lights come on, it's fantastic.
The three-piece configuration powers Monsonia's dynamic capabilities, especially because Growler seems to have been written and recorded respectful of each instrument's space in the final product. The bass, guitar and drums stand alone, alternately occupying or evacuating their territory. Through that construct, Monsonia accomplishes a lot by changing very little. When the bass and guitar fall away after the first two minutes of the tension-amped "This Mellow Classic," for instance, the song feels completely new. Only the hi-hat stays alive. Thanks to that near-silence, the last 90 seconds—overdriven and direct—maul twice as much as they would otherwise. Or when the guitar or drums man the lead after vocalist Carter Browning sings the theme in the slow, speed-shifting tease "I Want Some Magic!," the urgency swipes at your face like a tiger paw. Actually, that's how this entire record—a new entry into the year's local elite—feels, too.
Monsonia plays Thursday, Aug. 28, at Slim's with The Grappling Hook and Cantwell, Gomez & Jordan ($3, 10 p.m.) and Saturday at Local 506 with Donny Hue & the Colors and Zuexeus (free, 9:30 p.m.).