Back in the early days of the djent scene, British metallers Monuments were seen as one of the early originators of the style and rose alongside the likes of Textures and TesseracT (plus, of course to some influential degree Meshuggah and SikTh), yet seemed slower than most to ride the tide of momentum, with a full-length debut release coming significantly later than other bands from that cadre.
After two studio albums, a four-year break sees the band finally make their return. However, in the meantime, the Progressive Metal scenes have evolved significantly. In this new climate, it is telling that with latest album Phronesis (Century Media) the band has avoided the developments that have occurred around them, and focused on cementing just why they were seen as one of the genre’s top protagonists at the time.
Whilst many of Monument’s peers in the early Tech Metal boom have ventured far from their original sound (look at the most recent TesseracT and Skyharbor albums for example) or, in the case of Textures, disbanded entirely, Phronesis continues stylistically in the same vein as the band explored at their outset, which, ironically at this stage, makes the band stand out from many of their brethren. Whilst they do show plenty of divergences into more melodic and Prog-tinged territory, nonetheless this is predominantly built on the typical djent-style riffs and guitar tone, with impactful and catchy songwriting, which still offers depth.
Where their previous album The Amanuensis (Century Media) was a conceptual piece, Phronesis doesn’t follow such an overriding narrative, instead it holds a personal focus, written in the period between albums which saw the band dealing with individual demons and tribulations. This new approach becomes abundantly clear lyrically, from ‘Mirror Image’ and its defiant cries of picking yourself up through hardship, to the more confrontational and direct chorus lines of ‘Stygian Blue’ as examples. In this more emotive arena, vocalist Chris Barretto really shines in particular, displaying not only a balanced range between rage-filled growls and heartfelt clean singing, but also in sheer dynamism in delivery which is reminiscent to letlive./The Fever 333 frontman Jason Butler.
Monuments may not have altered their sound significantly in comparison to many other bands of their ilk and generation, but Phronesis instead sees them hone their craft and deliver their strongest and most immediate and poignant collection of songs to date. Monuments were once seen as masters in this field, and Phronesis sees them back to reclaim their crown.