Transcontinental metallers MONUMENTS have come a long way since starting as a side project of John Browne (guitars; Fellsilent) and Josh Travis (guitars; The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza). From a surprise appearance on BBC Radio 1 to debut full-length, “Gnosis“”, the group immediately found a fanatic audience. Praised for their brainy yet song-oriented approach to heavy music, MONUMENTS bridged the progressive metal gap like few before. On one side they challenged. “Gnosis“” was full of mind-bending, betcha-can’t-play-this-type passages. On the other side, fans deeply connected to hook-laden songs like “97% Static” and “Empty Vessels”.
Fast forward two productive years later and MONUMENTS - now with Chris Barretto (ex-Periphery, Ever Forthright) on vocals - have grown tremendously. While they’re still way into instrumental gymnastics and impressing fans with their musical prowess, they’ve really honed in on writing huge, impossibly memorable songs for new album, “The Amanuensis”. Like bigger, badder, and even more epic-than-before type stuff. If “97% Static” and “Empty Vessels” stuck to the brain, new songs like “I, Creator”, “The Alchemist”, and “Origin of Escape” hit the head, body, and mind hard. “I really like the chorus of ‘The Alchemist’,” guitarist John Browne smiles. “It’s really simplistic, but I think that part will sound big and open when we play it live. I also dig the ending of ‘I, The Destroyer’. I can’t really focus on one part or song. All of the songs I’m happy with how they all turned out.”
“The Amanuensis” is a complete experience, actually. Even Browne’s mom is impressed: “I know my mum will blast this out of her car like she did with ‘Gnosis’. She loves groove.”
If one thing’s certain about MONUMENTS and Browne in 2014 they’re keen to move away from needless classification with “The Amanuensis”. They’re specifically referring to their tenuous association with the djent movement. “Music is music,” Browne says. “It has the same 12 notes as any other music. The only difference is the way it’s expressed, so we use pretty silly words to try and explain the sound. The word ‘djent’ makes no sense whatsoever to describe a genre. The tone that it references isn’t really utilized by many bands that are classed as it. I feel progressive metal is a much better reference to our music, with a huge dose of groove.”
“The Amanuensis”, at least the title, was inspired by author David Mitchell’s novel, “Cloud Atlas”. The complex story lines are the perfect analog for MONUMENTS. Musically, the group weave in and out of themes, motifs, and professor-like note calculations with graceful ease. But lyrically “The Amanuensis” comes from a very different place. “The album is about the Samsara cycle,” reveals Browne. “The cyclical existence of life that we are all bound to. Chris has written an entire story around the lyrics. Maybe that will see the light one day! It's the story of Samsara.”
Recorded at Monnow Valley Studio (Black Sabbath, Rush, Led Zeppelin) in Wales, Audiohammer Studios (The Black Dahlia Murder, The Contortionist) in Florida, and Browne’s own studio Bear Noize Studio in England, “The Amanuensis” is powerful and clear. A resolute sonic statement. But the group’s sophomore album is also the most stripped down production in MONUMENTS’ history. By design the drum triggers and studio trickery are gone. “Metal has lost the ‘live’ element of production,” Browne admits. “All bands sound too perfect. And albums aren’t really a true representation of what the bands actually sound like in a live setting. We wanted to give everyone what we actually sound like, with us actually playing the instruments. The final result is great!”
With a new vocalist - Browne calls Barretto “A musician. It’s really easy to bounce ideas off of him.” - and a new album in “The Amanuensis”, MONUMENTS are taking progressive metal to the next level. The group’s ardent fanbase are sure to adore “Atlas”, “Garden of Sankhara”, and massively cool “Quasimodo”. “Hopefully they feel like they had the journey that was intended. It’s a pretty relentless record, but with some huge vocal hooks. We’re hoping this album will get stuck in peoples’ heads. It was a lot of fun to write.”
MONUMENTS are: John Browne (guitar), Olly Steele (guitar), Adam Swan (bass), Mike Malyan (drums, samples), and Chris Barretto (vocals, saxophone). Expect to witness the brilliance of MONUMENTS this summer and beyond as they support their stunning new album, “The Amanuensis”. (by Chris Dick / Decibel Magazine)