Monuments – In Stasis


Monuments are the first of the djent big three to release an album since Periphery changed the landscape with their landmark 2019 triumph, Periphery IV: Hail Stan. It’s a daunting prospect to follow this, and one that even Tesseract might struggle to equal when they enter the arena later this year. Of course, you can’t say the “d” word for fear of offending the members of Periphery and Tesseract, but Monuments are the least irked by this label. That could be because expectations of them are not as high. As a band that have had more members that your average Grindr user, the Transatlantic quartet are now a quartet after guitarist, Olly Steele, left last year. They also have a new singer in YouTube virtuoso, Andy Cizek, following Chris Barretto’s decision to quit on the eve of the 2019 Tech Fest. Are there any positives in this chaos?

The band’s decision to bring in original vocalist and ex-Fellsilent screamer, Neema Askari, on opener, ‘No One Will Teach You’, seems like an unnecessary reminder of the band’s origins and underwhelms on repeat listening despite its reverberations against your ribcage. Cizek’s impressive switch between hyper aggression and emotive tenor serenading should give this song the backbone it needs, but it feels subdued and sounds like Monuments reinterpreting something from their first demo. You’re right to fear for this record, but ‘Lavos’ follows in quick succession with a masterclass performance from drummer, Mike Malyan. A tech-death intro with blast beats is most welcome as an antidote, just as the hostile bite of the breakdown riff in the middle eight should get your pulses racing. Listen to Cizek’s sorrowful yet soothing vocal lines once the chaos abates – this is how you take the tired Meshuggah sound and turn it into something unique. You’ll feel like you can stomp a hole into a concrete pavement with your foot, yet you can also speak to your lover with tenderness and compassion at the same time. Wow!

You need to be at the highest level of ability to front one of the djent big three, and Cizek does not disappoint here. His aggressive belting technique is just as strong as his Michael Jackson tenor on ‘Cardinal Red’. The American avoids the trap of sounding whiny and adolescent when he needs to demonstrate his clean pipes, yet he refuses to settle into a comfort zone. You work out if you prefer him in the thrall of full demonic possession or in vocal coach mode on ‘Collapse’. The band give you plenty of reminders on this one that their founding principles lie in loyalty to extreme metal. The screams and chugging riffs reach temple-throbbing proportions here, and Gojira could do with including a few more of these technical groove riffs into their armoury.

Of course, the big question is whether djent can reinvent itself in 2022. Guitarist and songsmith, John Browne, lacks nothing when it comes to rhythmic imagination and exploration of the fretboard. His virtuoso fills and bold chord formations on ‘Makeshift Harmony’ would win all the plaudits were it not for Cizek’s sensational chorus delivery. It’s no exaggeration to say this would light up Periphery’s masterful Juggernaut Alpha/Omega album, which makes it all the more curious why the collaboration with Spencer Sotelo on ‘Arch Essence’ fails to grab you by the throat. Could it be that this effort sounds too much like an attempt to write a song that the Maryland quintet would be proud to call their own?

The levels of musicianship and ear for melody are undoubted on this record, and the heavier parts can challenge any form of metallic onslaught from the worlds of tech-death and groove metal. And yet it still sounds like the band have one foot in 2011, when this was all new and exciting, which is not the case these days.

In Stasis will hold your attention, but it’s too formulaic to change the rules of the game.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 15/04/2022

Record Label: Century Media

Standout tracks: Lavos, Cardinal Red, Makeshift Harmony

Suggested Further Listening: Periphery – Periphery III: Select Difficulty (2016), Veil of Maya – Matriarch (2015), Erra – Erra (2021)