Album: The Amaneunsis
Release Date: June 23rd 2014
After years of turmoil, an incredible début album, several vocal line-up changes and a whole host of problems, Monuments releases its second album of absolutely pummelling technical progressive metal.
The Amanuensis is a look into something called The Samsara Cycle. A Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist cycle of birth, life and death. A pretty heavy concept as it is and the album is a story revolving around this cycle and how we are all a part of it. The title itself is taken from the David Mitchell novel, “Cloud Atlas”, the complex twisting stories a perfect comparison for the music of Monuments. As an introduction for the new vocalist, Chris Barretto (Ex-Periphery, Ever Fortnight) and they showcase his already exceptional talent in an even more exceptional manner.
The album opens up I, Creator which many will have heard through guitarist John Browne, playing it on EMGtv. It swells with a seemingly impossibly complex and beautiful guitar lead before launching you into the full auditory assault that we’ve come to expect from Monuments. The verse brings the song down and introduces the much discussed clean vocals that litter the album. At first I was dubious, technical metal with clean vocals rarely works well, but in this case it is absolutely stunning. It produces an eerie effect and the astounding talent and range of Chris is immediately apparent. As is the sheer excellence and tightness of the rest of the band. Sharp, clever bass lines punctuate sweeping, melodic and heavily technical guitar which is powered forward by exquisite poly-rhythmic drumming. I’m immediately hooked after just 30 seconds of this first song. Well played.
Up next we have Origin Of Escape. A brutal introduction makes way for beautiful vocal harmonies, powerful bass lines and perfectly pitched subtle guitar work just beneath the weaving vocals. The first proper taste of heavy vocals comes through in the chorus and breaks, similar to those on Gnosis but punctuated with the harmonising of lows and highs. The heavy syncopated rhythms reminiscent of heavier Meshuggah come hammering through and offer some serious groove.
Atlas is a true beast of a track which showcases the incredible range of Chris Barretto which becomes quite a theme in this record. I never thought that in a band as exceptional as Monuments that I would find myself so much in love with the vocal performance. The cleans are stunning, the harmonies simply accentuate the effortless guitar work and with the heavier breaks the punishing vocals really release the power of the album. The song is incredibly infectious, which is unusual for technical metal, but somehow they’ve managed to make every hook sink in and stick in your head for days. The album has only been out since Monday and I’ve already played it through over 15 times.
Another perfect example of the heaviness that Monuments can bring is shown in Horcrux. Brilliant guitar work again and perfect vocals throughout the song. The clean guitar through the verse really shows off the vocals and help the heavy moments stand out.
Now, my favourite song of the album. Garden Of Sankhara. Another catchy, bouncy guitar riff walks us into a clean verse with a sensational vocal performance. You’ll find yourself singing along to “I’m moving through a place that I can’t reshape these god damn vines, I’m moving through a place that I can’t escape I hope they let me stay alive” and even an MJ style “Heee” thrown in. It might sound weird but it works so well. I’d say this is the most catchy of their songs and each individual performance is, again, stunning.
The Alchemist is another brute of a song, full on from the start with occasional clean vocals and powerful screamed vocals. They’ve really stepped away from their old ‘Djent’ label with this album and stepped up their game to a whole new level. Quasimodo continues the brutality and more lyrical brilliance. Vocal harmonies ring through the cleans but never overpower the sublime guitar work.
Saga City starts off with a very unusual vocal, it’s like a harmonised humming that continues into a type of vocal percussion. It’s so strange and I love it! Another stellar performance from the band. Guitar work is soft and gentle where it needs to be, bass is subtle but noticeable, percussion is similar and the vocals are gorgeous. Harmonies flowing over and under each other while pummeling rhythmic guitar swells all around.
Up next we have Jinn. A song that I dare people not to nod their head along with or at least tap your foot to. The beat is fantastic and just about halfway in we are treated to some off tempo guitar rhythm beneath more vocal beauty. Another killer track that flows effortlessly into the next, the finishing of I, The Creator and arguably the true finishing point for the album, I, The Destroyer. The reason I say this is because truthfully in the story it marks the end of our journey through this glorious world Monuments have created. Nuanced by moments of clarity between a cacophony of groove, aggression and songs so catchy you can’t help but give them a second listen. The whole band really goes all out with this one, the guitarists create a solid wall of rhythm with the percussion and a punchy bass drives the album home. It truly feels like a worthy end, swelling to the final chapter of our story. With the repetition and slow fading of Chris bellowing “This is the end!” it feels final, fading into nothingness.
That is, until the last and first track of the story begins. Samsara. Is the journey of birth, life and death, in a never-ending cycle. And so the story follows through a rebirth with the song. Eerie vocal harmonies reminiscent of Tibetan chanting and a calm swaying ambiance. It all combines to produce something of an anomaly. It’s almost a prayer in the way its sung and it feels like one too. The true beauty in Chris Barretto’s voice shines through more so here than anywhere else. He harmonises with himself 4/5 times in some places and it gives the impression of a full choir. You can’t help but feel sombre while listening to it. An odd ending but it truly does bring you around full circle as the album starts again as soon as it’s finished.
I honestly cannot praise this album highly enough. The production, mastering and performances are like nothing I have seen. An absolute masterpiece of an album.
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