Guest review by James Conway
The fact that ‘djent’ has so quickly become a dirty word for those who follow the metal scene could either point to bullshit detectors going into overdrive or a knee-jerk desire to stamp out anything that could be considered a trend which (shock horror) people enjoy listening to. It’s certainly true that an increasing number of Periphery sound-a-likes have appeared on the market since their debut album dropped in 2010, but it would be churlish to dismiss all bands of this ilk as having no merit, as London-based ‘progroove’ quintet Monuments prove with the sheer scope and technical ability displayed on their debut album Gnosis.
Picking up where djent forerunners Fellsilent left off, guitarist John Browne has wasted little time in resuming his maniacal vision of synthesizing the perfect combination of groove, rhythm and melody. This far-reaching, some may say impossible desire is laid bare on opening track ‘Admit Defeat’ which does no such thing as the off-kilter, de-tuned riffs and soaring vocal lines of Matt Rose convince you that this challenge is well within Browne’s grasp. ‘Degenerate’ sounds like a more engaging version of Mnemic as guitar strings and drum skins are hit with the merciless, yet out of time precision of a malfunctioning Terminator as Rose lays on the apocalyptic theme with his searing bellow of “This is the day we all die!” Hopefully not yet anyway as the SikTh-esque flourishes and schizophrenic vocals of ‘Doxa’ suggest this is one ride worth staying strapped in for.
‘The Uncollective’ employs some Tom Morello style guitar scratching to emphasise the machine-like atmosphere but also demonstrates a strong grasp of melodic intuition with its star gazing chorus. The staccato rhythms and gritted-teeth aggression of ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ venture into Threat Signal patrolled territory but repeatedly dip back to the more harmonious planes inhabited by Tesseract, the other band who rose from the ashes of Fellsilent. ‘97% Static’ brings Rose’s vocals to the forefront to show how beneficial his time spent with UK drum n’ bass act The Qemists really was in honing his vocal chords.
The intriguing ‘Empty Vessels Make the Most Noise’ applies a residue of industrial corrosion to the remorseless djent stabs to leave you gasping as the mystical background effects and searing percussion of Mike Malyan really drive home just how talented these guys really are. ‘Regenerate’ reconstructs “Nothing” era Meshuggah in its own fearless image before Spencer Sotelo of fellow tech heads Periphery pops up on closing track ‘Denial’, bringing a few spare parts from his parent act along to turn the bouncy, muscular riffs into the spinal-compressing unit he’s already familiar with.
Blessed with a phenomenal level of skill and impressive forward thinking attitude, Monuments don’t deserve to be written off as trend-hoppers and Gnosis will have the naysayers eating their dust for a while to come. If they can evolve from the tried-and-tested conspiracy theory lyrical themes into something more engaging with their next release, it’s conceivable Monuments could soon find their name on statues rather than being named after them.
James Conway is a regular contributor to the UK webzine thisisnotascene.com