Monuments - The Amanuensis - (7.5/10)
Published on July 9, 2014
High enough for all to see.
There’s no shortage of bands going heavy on the spiritual these days. Two notables would have to be Ethereal Riffian’s psych-doom masterpiece Aeonian, and Inanimate Existence’s tech-death tapestry A Never-Ending Cycle of Atonement, albums that also featured member-written stories to accompany their albums’ lyrical framework. Well, joining the existential metal party are ‘don’t-call-me-djent’ prog-metal act Monuments, a British quintet who are set to unleash their sophomore effort, The Amanuensis.
Coming off a lauded debut in 2012’s Gnosis, the band returned to the studio with a new singer in Chris Barretto (ex-Periphery, Ever Forthright) and a richer game-plan to ante-up the sound into something more organic and, housing lyrics based on the multi-denominational legend of Samsara and a title inspired by David Mitchell’s sci-fi-fantasy novel Cloud Atlas, eclectic influences that should help Monuments attain an even broader audience. And like Ethereal Riffian’s Val Kornev and Inanimate Existence’s Cameron Porras, new vocalist Chris Barretto has also penned a currently unpublished story centered upon the album’s lyrical content.
Gnosis presented a decidedly mechanical ‘djent’ sound with equal parts progressive qualities and a protein-rich blend of Meshuggah, fellow Century Media players Tesseract, and the sadly defunct The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza. The debut presented a healthy vision for this then-burgeoning label of djent, but the band, eager to step away from this tonal classification, opted for an even more melodic and progressive direction; although, it also goes without saying that the band haven’t completely forsaken their polyrhythmic roots and their affinity for jagged groove.
The Amanuensis retains the band’s penchant for the delirious and technical, but, as was their aim, the overall atmosphere is of a more convivial quality, as if the windows were opened and all of the stuffiness was fanned away. The vocalist change is a welcome one as Barretto seems to have a better grasp on the intangibles of what dictates a sharper hook or chorus — case in point “I, The Creator” — although original vocalist Matt Rose certainly had his moments in the sun on tracks like “The Uncollective.” The contrast between harsh vocals and clean vocals also leans heavily in the latter, ultimately helping The Amanuensis venture from the classification of some sort of core-hybrid, an unavoidable distinction when such burly deathcore-associated roars are heard steaming up from the long grass. Additionally, Barretto often has an uncanny vocal resemblance to Lajon Witherspoon, a style that inevitably ushers in the Sevendust comparisons.
Monuments deliver a dynamic sound, weaving a pounding and fulsome rhythm section with frenzied, chugging guitar-lines and a variety of vocal shades into a latticework of modern metal that should cater to fans of Periphery, Animals as Leaders, and then to other fringe prog acts like Caligula’s Horse, The Ocean, Exivious, and Corelia. Still, what works best for The Amanuensis are its more melodically refined and intricate moments, whereas its heavier sections, in spite of their grooves, are often far too familiar. Thankfully, Monuments seem to understand this as the lion’s share of attention is given to fleshing out melody. Tracks like “Atlas” or “I, The Destroyer” are intense, rhythmically dense, but the riffs are simply riding shotgun to the vocal arrangements that have the requisite gas-tank to drive this album all the way home.
While ‘djent’ may be dying off as term, its vapors are still a viable force in the realm of modern progressive metal. Monuments might not convince the older and stingier of the metal class, and their cleanliness may likewise prove too accessible (a bad thing in metal, lest you forget), but The Amanuensis is the product of an immensely talented band who seem to be on the verge of greatness. As it stands, their latest has a bit too much posturing with its unwarranted harsh vocals that probably furrow more brows than they prompt devil-horns. Still, these Monuments are as sturdy as they come.