Sound — 8
After a very long two year wait fraught with problems, lineup changes and even lawsuits, UK Tech-prog metallers Monuments have released the debut album many thought would never arrive, "Gnosis". After the disbandment of Fellsilent, guitarist John Browne and (now ex) vocalist Neema Askari started working on assembling the embryonic version of monuments, creating a distinct yet similar sound to the now defuntct Fellsilent. The band built up a somewhat large fanbase on the very short 3 song demo "We Are The Foundation" through the underground djent movement, with aggressive dual vocals and a metallic 7 and 8 string guitar tone while also being renowned for their frantic live performances. Now after copious lineup changes, Monuments seem to have found their feet as a stable band with new and only vocalist Matt Rose taking the helm. To the music itself, the album kicks in with the fan favourite "Admit Defeat", this time the ambience building more than the original demo track until Browne and Steele unleash, while soon after the vocals kick in with a more fluidity and a clearer melody than previous versions. "Degenerate" and "Doxa", the two previously released 'singles' then up the tempo and "Gnosis" begins to kick faster. "Degenerate" is perhaps one of the most aggressive tracks on "Gnosis", with Rose forcing his words to be heard with emotional lyrics and a distinct raw delivery. "Doxa", meanwhile, has probably the most conventional song structure on the album, still technical however it is probably the most accessable with the chorus building into the song until Rose reaches his vocal crescendo, after which the song drops back down into the brooding metallic riffs of Browne and Steele. Then the track all fans have been either anticipating or dreading, "The Uncollective". This is the song that gave Monuments their status as forward thinking and leaders of their scene. Thankfully Rose realsises this and steps up with a bludgeoning scream before the song truly kicks in, the groove of "Gnosis" peaks in "The Uncollective" while the tapping chorus from Browne melds superbly with the melody supplied by Rose, this is perhaps the most complete song on "Gnosis", a definite stand out. "Blue Sky Thinking" is a song easy to overlook due to the rather generic intro, however listen on and Matt Rose's vocal ability comes to the fore with supreme control of his range and melody construction. There are also bits of groove which make this the surprise track of the album. "97% Static" slows down the tempo with a more groove based song, the clean vocals are once again good however the screams are very abrasive. The outro however is ambient enough to forgive this somewhat but still a difficult but rewarding listen. "Empty Vessels..." is perhaps the most forgettable track on "Gnosis", there is groove and the typical djenty guitar tone throughout however there is very little to hold your attention, the groove is average and the cleans sadly don't showcase fully the ability of Rose. "Regenerate" sways in with a typical Browne delay-soaked ambience, the song builds with the bass grooving in and the guitars building up until the Rose pushes the song forward. This is the only song on the album with a solo and although simple, it provides the song and the album within exactly what it needs; simple understated and quite beautiful. The album finishes with "Denial" which is a somewhat hit and miss track. This features guest vocals from Spencer Sotello of Periphery and as a result begins to sound more like periphery until Rose steps in. As accomplished as Sotello is, Rose out performs him on "Denial" and while it isn't the best track on "Gnosis" it is still a fitting end to the album.
Lyrics — 9
After the departure of dual vocalists Neema and Greg, Monuments went on a long search to find a suitable vocalist able to fill the void left by two accomplished vocalists. Monuments settled on Matt Rose after almost a year long search and despite splitting opinion on a leaked Soundcloud demo, Rose has certainly proven to be the right choice for Monuments. His cleans are superb, his distinct precise lyric execution is far beyond Neema or Greg while his range challenges even the likes of Spencer Sotello at times. However Rose's vocal ability is also matched by his writing strength. Clean melodies sweep through and compliment the guitar work perfectly while the screams on "Gnosis" are less frantic than previously yet more abrasive than those on "We Are The Foundation". Rose has shown he can fill the void left in Monuments and significantly change the feel of older songs to better effect with his own style, the only issue I have is the screams could have more range and be more prominent in the mix and perhaps be slightly less abrasive, otherwise an excellent vocal performance all round.
Overall Impression — 9
I have refrained from using the word djent nearly all the way through this review and that is because, like "Periphery II", Monuments are leaving the scene they created behind somewhat. They have ventured far more into progressive territory rather than staying in the confines of the djent scene and have created a better album in the process. Rose has lifted the band melodically and Browne has crafted something special instrumentally. The production has a raw feel comparatively to their peers and is better for it, the guitar tone is heavy, brooding and metallic while the ambience is abundant in the right places while not sounding forced. I was never a fan of "We Are The Foundation" however "Gnosis" has brought back the aggression from Fellsilent into Monuments with a more complete sound, a definite landmark album of 2012 and for Progressive Metal.