Album Title: In Stasis
Label: Century Media Records
Date of Release: 15 April 2022
My general aversion to full-on djent over the past decade or two has meant that UK-based metal band Monuments have never been high on my list of bands I’ve wanted to keep up with. I have listened to their previous material more out of a sense of obligation than desire, simply because I feel that I need to listen to everything labelled ‘progressive’. It may cover a multitude of styles, but ‘prog’, loosely, is one of my favourite genres of music. But where Monuments, and others of their ilk are concerned, theirs is a style that has always been too overtly modern and djenty for my tastes. Not only that, but I’ve always heard a little too much of the dreaded ‘metalcore’ where Monuments are concerned in the past.
As with other styles of music over the last year or so though, I have seen a thawing of my djent opinions in particular, and so it felt like a no-brainer to give this latest effort from Monuments a go. Not only that, but ‘In Stasis’ is the first album to be released with new vocalist Andy Cizek, who has replaced Chris Barretto behind the mic. And with long time guitarist Olly Steele recently leaving, to reduce Monuments to a four-piece, my interest was piqued enough to see how Monuments would fare in 2022 with this, their fourth full-length release.
Given all of these changes of late, the album is somewhat ironically named. However, as the band are keen to explain, the title was born out of the fact that “the album became centered (sic) around the concept of being in stasis, stuck in the middle of a power struggle with oneself.”
Not being massively knowledgeable on the last three records in their discography, I will leave it to others to play the ‘compare and contrast’ game. What I will say at this juncture though, is that ‘In Stasis’ has surprised me a little. The core sound, dominated by those chugging djent riffs in clever time signatures remains very much intact, as does the injection of melody and the juxtaposition of harsh and clean vocals. But I wasn’t expecting ‘In Stasis’ to be this enjoyable and, dare I say it, this varied. There is plenty of material on this fifty-minute album that got me smiling or raising an eyebrow in appreciation. I like it when that happens.
‘No One Will Teach You’ starts things off on ‘In Stasis’ and if I was to listen to this track in isolation, I’d think that very little has changed from what I’d heard from Monuments before. It’s full-on djent attack, with those familiar chunky riffs and powerhouse rhythm section, with vocals that flit from spiteful growls, to a higher-register clean delivery. I’m still not sold on the more metalcore ingredient that’s the shouted/spoken approach whilst I have to really be in the mood for the kinds of breakdowns that this music generally brings with it. But in spite of this, it’s an interesting song that I don’t dislike anywhere near as much as I thought, probably because of the nice complexity that sits within the spiky, muscular heaviness.
It’s with the introduction of the second track, ‘Lavos’, that my attention is more fully grabbed. It starts off at a furious pace, naked aggression held in check by excellent musicianship all round. Within moments, everything drops away though to leave Cizak to sing alone with only the barest hint of a soundscape behind him, subtly cinematic, and with a dark vibe. And then, when the chorus hits, the vocalist lets rip, leaving a path of destruction in his wake; the sheer variation in Cizak’s delivery is exceptionally impressive, but so is the song overall, as it brings in melody, variety, and a thoroughly engrossing sound. If the entirety of ‘In Stasis’ followed suit, I’d be waxing even more lyrical than I am now.
That said, there are other compositions amongst the ten that really hit the mark as far as I am concerned and show a band that’s willing and able to try new things along the way. On that score, I’d pick out ‘Cardinal Red’, ‘Collapse’, ‘The Cimmerian’ as definite album highlights.
The former, ‘Cardinal Red’ features arguably the strongest of all of the melodies on ‘In Stasis’. The opening sequence sees a seesaw between naked aggression and more reserved passages that hint at the melody to come. And when the chorus descends, it’s truly beautiful. The subtle electronics that sit beneath the guitars, bass, drums, and vocals comes out to play more eloquently with the benefit of headphones, and it’s a nice touch, adding texture and a hint more of modernity. I’m also a fan of the chosen riffs, as they cut with precision throughout, whilst drummer Mike Malyan underlines his talents very eloquently too.
‘Collapse’ is a monstrous song that may return somewhat to type, but there’s no denying the power and the catchiness of the song’s chorus. It’s one of the more overt metalcore-infused tracks here, but once you hear the chorus, you’ll not be able to get the hooks out of your mind.
And then there’s ‘The Cimmerian’. At over eight minutes, it’s the longest on the record, but it is well worth its length as it explores so much within that time. I love the opening guitar lick and the intensity that hits from there. But even more striking is the way in which we’re taken on a journey through quieter, more minimalist soundscapes where the smoothness of Cizak’s voice really impresses me. It means that the heavier sections make more of an impact, but it laces the song with a really nice melodic aspect which is present throughout, creating an anthemic feel. The acoustic guitars are a lovely touch, as is the delicate cinematic outro to see out the album in its entirety.
If I’m being completely honest, then I must admit that ‘In Stasis’ hasn’t won me over 100%, and I’m unlikely to fervently sing the band’s praises throughout 2022. However, it is an enormous step in the right direction as far as I’m concerned. This is the sound of a band expanding their blueprint and doing it in a way that will no doubt please existing fans and bring new admirers to their cause. There is no denying the fact that Monuments are a very talented and focused outfit, capable of making a really great noise, and I will definitely keep them on my radar in future.
The Score of Much Metal: 82%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: