Monuments – In Stasis Review

To my credit, I was prepared. For those who enter the prog trailer park via that sketchy patch of woods at the back called “djent,” the polyrhythm abusers can be easier to spot. Futuristic-looking album covers, scientific names, and vaguely mathematic monikers like Structures, Tesseract, Volumes, and Intervals greet the eyes – or Monuments, in this case. I wasn’t expecting the latest mathcore cut-up or the next Between the Buried and Me. I knew that if I received an uppercut of bass-heavy wonky grooves, spacey synths, and frantic screams, I was gonna be happy. And y’know what? I’m pretty happy.

Monuments is a transatlantic progressive metalcore band mainly based in Britain. Three albums in, we’re still not entirely sure of the basis of their sound, aside from founder and former Fellsilent guitarist John Browne’s complex technical riffing and noodling. From the Periphery-core of 2012’s Gnosis, the sprawling melodies of 2014’s The Amanuensis, and the rut of 2018’s Phronesis, the greater emphasis is given to first album in four years, In Stasis – which is also a collaboration with renowned composer Mick Gordon. Borrowing from djent pioneers Fellsilent and SikTh as well as the Peripherys and After the Burials, it’s a bulletproof album that showcases the path the band has traveled. While it’s undeniably djent and will face the barrage of “sounds like” accusations, In Stasis is the best album of Monument‘s career.

In many ways, In Stasis is nostalgic for Hot Topic-esque metalcore, as vocalist Andy Cizek offers a roar and falsetto croon that recalls the duality of We Came as Romans‘ Dave Stephens and Kyle Pavone or Erra‘s Garrison Lee and Jesse Cash. This duality would be damning if the music backing it wasn’t so good. Browne’s riffs recall the more-technical djent offerings of Erra‘s Impulse or AurasCrestfallen, injecting infectious melodies with jaw-dropping technicality and crushing grooves, with drummer Mike Malyan backing up the one-two punch with flare of his own and bassist Adam Swan adding a brutal bottom-end to the rhythms. Yes, the Periphery is strong with this one, but tracks like “Lavos,” “Somnus,” and “False Providence” are unique in their rhythmic technicality and controlled mathy chaos. Furthermore bolstering this is an emphasis on ethereal melody that interweaves itself with the neck-snapping energy. It’s an instrumental trident of efficiency, with wild technicality seared into the brain, energetic SikTh-esque riffs providing concussion after concussion, and hints of spacy melody coursed throughout, enhanced by a nearly perfect crisp and balanced mix.

The biggest flaw of In Stasis is its length and style. In Stasis is firmly rooted in the -core shenanigans of the mid-2000s, as Andy Cizek’s clean vocal style is reminiscent of the Asking Alexandrias and The Devil Wears Pradas of the world. As such, tracks like “Opiate,” “Arch Essence,” and “Makeshift Harmony” feature annoyingly catchy choruses that you may not like seared into your brain. Furthermore, while grooves rarely overstay their welcome, breakdowns in “Collapse” and “Arch Essence” take away from the energy. As mentioned above, there are many similarities to other djent greats, while the unhinged technicality recalls [id]-era Veil of Maya or Singularity-era Northlane. However, while vocals, breakdowns, and djenty similarity are largely a question of taste, the album’s length is a more obvious detractor. Clocking in at over fifty minutes, the final tracks lose their strength when there have been a multitude of five-minute cuts with little djenty reprieve, so the epic eight-minute conclusion “The Cimmerian” loses its impact. Finally, a nitpick at best, former Monuments vocalist Neema Askari features on “No One Will Teach You” and Periphery vocalist Spencer Sotelo on “Arch Essence,” but I have difficulty pinpointing where exactly they are, due to the frankly more varied approach that Cizek provides.

At the end of the day, Monuments is still djent – take that how you will. With Meshuggah‘s latest burning up the charts, it’s easy to write off In Stasis as just another djent album, but the songwriting is rock solid, the technicality is tasteful, and the -core nostalgia is present but not overdone. Unlike myriad djent bands that feel knee-deep in the swamp of their own bass-heavy guitar tone, Monuments feels spry and fluid, sporting a three-pronged attack of crushing heaviness, brain-melting technicality, and ethereal atmosphere. While this is ultimately nothing new under the djunz and the djunz is overlong, my ears have sustained an uppercut – and I’m pretty happy about it.

 


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media Records
Websites: thisismonuments.co | facebook.com/thisismonuments
Releases Worldwide: April 15th, 2022

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