A stunning achievement from a band who have found their sound.
I've always felt that Monuments have been somewhat marginalised. Born from the ashes of Fellsilent which also gave birth to Tesseract with whom, alongside Periphery they toured in the now legendary League of Extraordinary Djentlemen tour of 2010, the band have been at the core of the Djent community from the beginning. Indeed guitarist John Browne makes up one third of the holy trinity of djentleman band leaders, the three guitarists who pioneered the sound to which this website is dedicated, graduating from online demos and experiments to full length releases and full time touring. Sadly, as Periphery was launched to stardom and Misha Mansoor was elevated to the position of guitar god by the greater metal community and while Tesseract have moved on to bigger and bigger things, culminating in this month's Sonisphere performance before an audience of thousands, Monuments have remained fairly obscure.
This was all set to change in 2012 with the release of Gnosis, the band's long awaited début full length. Beset by the bane of our community, the vocalist problem, the album took far longer to complete than fans had hoped but on release was well received. However, despite stand-out tracks like Doxa and The Uncollective, when compared to Tesseract's One and Periphery's self titled début, Gnosis felt unpolished and was clearly made by a band still trying to pin down it's sound.
Now with The Amanuensis Monuments have done it. If Gnosis was exploratory and raw, The Amanuensis is polished and confident. Better production, more fluid song-writing and a fantastic new vocalist have allowed the band to produce a record of which they should be proud.
- I, the Creator is the perfect track to open with, it's opening riffs remind us that this is the same band that gave us Doxa and allows new vocalist Chris Barretto (ex-Periphery, Ever Forthright) a safe introduction to fans who may be uncertain about his contribution to the record. Barretto showcases the full range of his abilities on this track; deep growls, high screams and mid level hardcore shouts as well as clean vocals which fit surprisingly well considering this song sounds more like Monuments' earlier, more raw material than any other track on the album does. Overall this track is both reassuring and exciting, linking the band's new sound with their older one.
- Origin of Escape is more ambitious, leaving more space for Barretto's singing. This is the most consistent song Monuments have made, it's introduction sets the theme for a string of groove laden riffs in compound time revolving around two, twanging open strings which are only lifted for a chorus which soars. Origin of Escape was obviously conceived as a song and not a bundle of riffs and grooves held together by a common title and tempo.
- Atlas opens with the kind of groove John Browne is loved for. Reminiscent of Sikth's Sanguine Seas of Bigotry, it's opening shows the wider context of this record, a background of bands like Sikth and Deftones who were the early inspiration for our scene. These early djenticulations give way to almost poppy, Periphery-esque verses and choruses. This is a great example of the range of style this band is now occupying, from those low grooving riffs of obvious heritage to Barretto's sing-along melodies.
- Horcrux, I think, is the weakest track on the album. This, however, is by no means an insult. It opens with a melody similar to Tubular Bells and continues with the band's new signature of angular riffs and uplifting choruses. This is an interesting enough song, it just occupies that unfortunate position in the album where the style and tone of the record is already established and doesn't add a new element to the proceedings.
- Garden of Sankara is the first track on the album which simply couldn't have been on Gnosis. This is a song for singing. It's pace is relaxed and allows Barretto to take the reins and steer the emotion of the song wherever he wants. This is an interesting new dimension to the band's sound that I look forward to hearing more of in future releases.
- Now we come to what is without a doubt my favourite track on The Amanuensis: The Alchemist. The opening is a maelstrom. The intensity builds and gives way to groove but tension continues to mount. The first minute is leading to something that has to be big and when it hits it is massive. A second long pause before the chorus drops is a "holy shit" moment. The chorus is simple but easily the most powerful and moving moment of the album. The rest of the track consists of rising and falling intensity and steadily building tension, craving the release of the returning chorus. This track is a sure sign of the maturity of a band who know exactly what they're doing.
- Quasimodo is a worthy follow up to The Alchemist. Some fantastic compound time riffs and Barretto's mid-pitch shouts make the start of this track comparable to Lamb of God but with infinitely more groove, a quality we come to expect by now. These riffs give way to the most surprising moment on the album. A deliciously dark interlude of mounting intensity led by Barreto's almost taunting voice. Layers of vocal harmony are added as the guitars become more intense, giving the feeling of rising power from Barretto. The song closes with crushing guitars which call back to the song's opening.
- Just like Garden of Sankara, Saga City is a song for singing. A long build up leads to a variation on the chorus of the Alchemist with an almost remorseful tone followed by heavier breakdowns. This is a very emotional track, sinking and soaring before crushing in it's closing moments.
- Jinn takes the tone at the end of Saga City and amplifies it. Where the Alchemist was fuelled by passion, Jinn is pushed on by anger and determination. There is a constant feeling of striving and forward motion in this song. Only slowing near the end as if it has burned out and it's rage has been satiated.
- I, the Destroyer is the perfect final (proper) track, it's title and position in the track listing mirroring I, the Creator. Dissonant chords and an evil riff that filters in are only surpassed by the deepest growl on the album. This is The Amanuensis' Blackwater Park moment and it wouldn't feel out of place to hear "Lepers coiled 'neath the trees" rolling out of Barretto's throat. The chorus is unexpected, catchy and uplifting, it breaks with the tone of the introduction but it's welcome for it's sheer quality. When it returns later in the song with half time drums it just feels good. Despite a fadeout finish, the closing breakdowns and growls provide a sense of closure on the record.
- Samsara is a nice final touch. Layered vocals and a thick atmosphere let you cool down after a rollercoaster of a record.
Interestingly, listening on Spotify, once the atmospherics subside, a live recording of Degenerate comes on which is a real eye opener to just how far this band have come over the last two years. With The Amanuensis, Monuments have secured their position in the upper echelons of the Djent community as well as a great shot at many people's album of the year. In 2014, I struggle to imagine anything could top this and will be wearing my Monuments and Got-Djent t-shirts with pride as part of a community which has supported bands like Monuments from the very beginning and allowed an album like this to be released.
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