Album Reviews

ALBUM REVIEWS: MONSTA X – ‘No Limit’

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70 / 100

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If there is only one thing MONSTA X need people to know about them, it’s that they have been leading the pack since their fateful debut in 2015. Over half a decade in the game has given rise to pioneers of foot-stomping, adrenaline-rushing music – from their debut mini-album ‘Trespass’ all the way to their latest offering, the ‘No Limit’ mini-album. It’s safe to say that their time on the playing field has allowed them to sculpt a sound and concept that are so uniquely theirs.

Through the seven sensational tracks on ‘No Limit’, the group – comprising Joohoney, Minhyuk, Hyungwon, Kihyun and I.M, plus Shownu, who’s currently in the military – are declaring that there are no boundaries to the soaring heights they wish to take their music with. This pronouncement is most tangible on the record’s opening and lead track ‘Rush Hour’, skillfully penned by Joohoney, Kihyun and I.M. “[It] delineates MONSTA X’s identity as a group that shines in an era where there’s an infinite supply of competitors,” the boyband said of the track during a press conference for its release, per The Korea Herald.

They make clever use of metaphors to drive this message home, comparing the plethoric nature of the K-pop industry to heavy traffic during rush hour. “Hitting the gear on the heavy traffic of the city / Only looking forward, no back, back / Competition is always thrilling,” they say in the opening seconds of the song, “There is no doubt, no cap, cap / This is my reality / Nothing’s impossible, ability / What’s hidden backstage is duality.”

The way ‘Rush Hour’ hinges on this indelible confidence through its lyrics is not the only thing that makes it such a rousing listen – the song itself purposely calls back the familiar swaggering boastfulness MONSTA X debuted with. “I think I tried to go back to our debut song ‘Trespass’ and bring that energy into ‘Rush Hour’,” Joohoney explained. It’s obvious: the instrumental is as monumental, but adds a spry snap and a mangled riff that thrills from start to finish.

The rest of the mini-album – all of which flaunt either writing or production credits from two or more members of the group at a time – live up to the hype set up by ‘Rush Hour’. The unapologetic provocativeness of ‘Autobahn’ and ‘Got Me In Chains’ are the most corporeal proof of this progression right off the bat.

The former pulls off the group’s propensity for suggestive lyrics while sticking to the mini-album’s theme, all while riding a club-ready electronic beat. Everything about ‘Autobahn’ keeps listeners on their toes, but it’s the lyrics that pull the most weight: “Autobahn, autobahn / This place is too cramped for me to play, too cramped / Playin’ in the large waters baby, that’s my specialty.”

On ‘Got Me In Chains’, MONSTA X paint an impassioned picture of a desire for someone that’s so overwhelming that it threatens to tread the line of addiction. Warped beats, striking layers of techno and R&B successfully create a foggy atmosphere that breathe life into its lyrics. It may sound like a recipe for chaos on paper, but the vast number of elements incorporated to make this song so wholly complex is used to their utmost potential. Most importantly, the production of ‘Got Me In Chains’ is tight and punchy, hitting its hardest at the right climaxes.

The drama only escalates further on ‘Mercy’. It is dark and foreboding, with gothic sonic elements being peppered throughout the song, all while an unyielding beat thunders in the background to give it an extra edge above the rest. Though, the hauntingly awe-inspiring vocal performances by the group, especially from main vocalist Kihyun, is the song’s pièce de résistance.

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Trap beats meet the faintest trace of funk on ‘Ride With U’, completed with honeyed vocals (especially from rappers Joohoney and I.M) for an instant banger. MONSTA X slow things down on ‘Just Love’, tender strums of a guitar playing out against a gentle meld of pop and R&B. It’s a fitting backdrop for the lyrics, where the group attempt to sing your worries away.

The boyband conclude the mini-album on an optimistic note with ‘I Got Love’, where they delight in the small pleasures of daily life: “The day I sing and you listen / Again, dancing and laughing with a single joke”. It focuses on their vocal ability, though the instrumentation is rife with the same generic blend of trap and hip-hop we hear from K-Hip-Hop musicians, which makes the song feel somewhat predictable.

There has always been a fire burning within MONSTA X’s music – sometimes benign, almost uncontrollable at others – sitting at the core of the group’s sound, however, remains a desire to unashamedly evolve into musicians who break barriers.‘No Limit’ upholds this ambition notably well by delivering quality music shaped by the very hands of MONSTA X, doubling down on their sound and staying power.

Details

Release date: November 19

Record label: Starship Entertainment

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