01. Admit Defeat
04. The Uncollective
05. Blue Sky Thinking
06. 97% Static
07. Empty Vessels Make the Most Noise
09. Denial (feat. Spencer Sotelo of Periphery)
[Century Media Records]
They say being late to the party is a fashionable statement to make. Of course, that comes with the assumption that the late arrival is intentional and that the party is still going on by the time you show up. Unfortunately, British djent/tech metal group Monuments never anticipated losing vocalists Neema Askari and Greg Pope, effectively putting their debut album on delay while they searched for an appropriate replacement. Finally getting a stable enough lineup in 2012 and signing to Century Media, Monuments’ highly anticipated debut record Gnosis has arrived, and it comes right as interest in djent begins to wane, nearly missing the boat altogether. Luckily for them, Gnosis is more likely serve to reinvigorate the scene rather than to eschew its death knell.
The sound of Monuments is easily traced through their lineage and the influences that are worn proudly on their sleeves. John Browne, the guitarist and driving force of Monuments, carries over his powerful emphasis on rhythm and minor key melodies from his previous band Fellsilent (which shared a member in Tesseract’s Acle Kahney) and key influences in SikTh and Meshuggah. As such, it’s not hard to imagine how Gnosis was to sound prior to its release; complex and technical rhythms and ethereal, twinkling guitar melodies are the main flavor of Gnosis. It’s not the most groundbreaking release this year, but it takes the formula (which, to be fair, was co-written by Browne to begin with) and does wonders with it. Many bemoan the genre’s homogenous sound, but Gnosis really sounds like nothing else. Monuments offer their own flair and nuance that creates a unique listening experience.
The center of attention on Gnosis is of course the newest member in vocalist Matt Rose, known for his previous work with drum and bass group The Qemists. Surely, immersing yourself into an already complete and highly anticipated release must be a position of high stakes, but Rose delivers with his performance with surprising variance. He manages to emulate Neema’s spastic harsh vocal delivery in his own way when appropriate while providing the soaring vocal melodies that help make Gnosis such a haunting listen. He channels Mike Patton at times (another artist who has worked with The Qemists), as well. Perhaps during his time as frontman, he can contribute to the songwriting on a greater level and tapping into his strengths and talents as a wildcard of sorts. From the off-kilter spoken word in ‘Degenerate’ to the powerful ballad-esque ‘Blue Sky Thinking,’ Rose makes his first steps as a metal frontman with great aplomb.
Gnosis is an album with personality. Its production (handled by Browne himself) and the obviously much-delegated choice of tonality leaves just enough murkiness to cloud the underlying mechanical precision that the genre has come to foster. There’s a dark subtlety to Gnosis that carries throughout the whole album, making it feel complete in itself as a single listening experience. This is where debut albums often fall apart; bands collect songs for their initial offering and many times it seems like an arbitrary collection without much focus on the entire experience. It’s obvious when listening to Gnosis that there’s a point to be made, and as such, feels tightly focused.
An album as hotly anticipated as Gnosis needs to have the musical clout to follow through, and Monuments succeed in finding their footing in the current wave of prog and groove metal. Gnosis not only grooves for days, but has enough substance to keep listeners coming back for more. So sure, Monuments may be fashionably late, but Gnosis will likely be looked back upon in favor even after the djent party ends.
Monuments – Gnosis gets…