Saturday, 26 July 2014

Monuments - The Amanuensis (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23/6/2014
Label: Century Media Records

MONUMENTS “The Amanuensis” track listing (50:21):

1. I, The Creator (3:56)
2. Origin Of Escape (4:03)
3. Atlas (3:22)
4. Horcrux (4:46)
5. Garden Of Sankhara (4:48)
6. The Alchemist (4:35)
7. Quasimodo (5:02)
8. Saga City (4:44)
9. Jinn (4:08)
10. I, The Destroyer (5:46)
11. Samsara (5:11)

The Band:

Chris Barretto | Vocals, saxophone
John Browne | Guitar
Olly Steele | Guitar
Adam Swan | Bass
Mike Malyan | Drums, samples


Sometimes, Fate lends a hand in your musical expansion.  For a fair while now, friends have been telling me about the immense power of a London-based progressive metal band named Monuments.  Apparently their debut album ‘Gnosis’ was about as crushing an album you can get without causing yourself internal injury.  Sadly, the album passed me by and my life went on without Monuments. 

Then I receive my latest batch of albums to review.  We meet at last, Monuments.  And here we have your brand new album, ‘The Amanuensis’.  I had to look it up: apparently, amanuensis is a person who writes down texts dictated to them by another, sort of like a middle-man between the art and the artist.  Fascinating, I mused.  Then, I actually listened to the album… 

Fate, you sly old fox.  You’ve done it again. 

Although they hate the term ‘djent’, their album certainly doesn’t look out of place within that hard-hitting genre.  They have that Messhuggah attack and crazy polyrhythms, and their blast beats could level hillocks.  However, this is tempered with spacey, nuanced melodies which are interspersed through the album’s 11 tracks: it reminded me of Polish prog metallers DispersE and their subtle, slicing riffery.  John Browne revealed that this album’s inspiration came from the Samsara, which is the belief in the continual and never ending cycle of life, death and rebirth.  And some people think metal is for Neanderthals?  For shame, general public.  For shame. 

Let’s talk about the music.  And it is music of a violent and vital calibre: as soon as opener ‘I The Creator’ slithers and strikes out at you, you have been struck by a wicked and potent venom.  Ex-Periphery vocalist Chris Barretto takes on the mantle of a divine yet angry God, handing out soothing vocals like blessings, and then striking out with guttural roars as righteous displays of power he wields.  Bow down. 

This quintet has created an album that inspires, innovates and incapacitates unwary elderly folk who happen to catch a listen without prior warning.  ‘Atlas’ is a personal favourite of mine, combining a Hatebreed-meets-Messhuggah groove with soul-searing vocal harmonies and sumptuous time shifts.  And then there’s ‘I The Destroyer’.  Mike Malyan, I don’t know how your legs haven’t fallen off with that relentless pace you keep up behind the kit: what I do know is that I hope you keep it up for many, many years to come.  Added to this drumming behemoth is the brutal, chainsaw guitars that hack and tear through speakers and eardrums with equal ease. 

‘The Amanuensis’ is an album that should send Monuments hurtling into the pantheon of modern metal gods.  As they take their place among the hallowed elite, they will look at what their latest offering had done to the metal populace, and smile in dark satisfaction.  As with their subject matter, their album will continually live and be reborn in the never ending cycle of music.  This is musical Samsara: what a marvelous thing to behold. 

Words by: Chris Markwell

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