For UK progressive metal band MONUMENTS, more than a decade’s worth of touring, roster changes, and collaborating with the amazing talent within their scene has continually honed and elevated their game to new heights. On the band’s fourth studio album, “In Stasis”, the group brings together the best elements of this new chapter in their story while honouring many of the fixtures from their past. The follow-up to 2018’s “Phronesis”, the new record is also MONUMENTS’ first with lead vocalist Andy Cizek at the helm, and as Mike Malyan (drums) notes, his involvement in the creation of “In Stasis” has reshaped what the band is capable of from a songwriting perspective.
“During the album writing process, Andy's involvement has completely transformed our ability to sculpt songs. We could never reliably shoot out song ideas – songs would have to be written as final instrumental pieces that flowed well, and then vocals would be bolted on. We feel confident to send Andy initial song structures, and he'll send us vocal drafts which immediately elevate the song and help us know the direction the instrumental should take to refine the process. The result is incomparable to us, as now the songs make so much more sense. “
As Maylan goes on to express, the end result of this change is that the new material is more organic and collaborative on all fronts. “It really helps that he keeps the conceptual images that Browne writes with and develops them in his own image. This allowed ‘In Stasis’ to take shape naturally, and it is a great reflection of the strength of that process. With ‘Animus’ and ‘Deadnest’, we were just learning how that would work & discovering it naturally.” Still, fans have found quickly that the creative strides from the band haven’t’ been limited to the songwriting process alone. On the record’s first single – the blisteringly savage and soaringly operatic “Lavos”, MONUMENTS introduce their collaboration with Australian composer Mick Gordon – most famously known for his contributions to the music for the Doom videogame franchise. And if you’re wondering how these two forces of breathtaking brutality first came together, it came about in rather quaint fashion.
“Mick got in contact with Browne when we played in Australia. They met up for some drinks at a club after a show, and Mick said that he would be down to collaborate in the future.” As for what it’s been like working with Gordon on songs like “Lavos”, the group eagerly express the effect it had on the record as a whole. “The actual process of getting Mick on ‘Lavos’ was a single text message just asking if he'd be down. His contribution made such a huge impact and contribution to the energy of the track, to the point that we couldn’t imagine the album without him. We asked and he agreed! Mick brought so much to the record, not just in the parts that he made but also in his ethos and excitement with us behind the scenes. He kept it all feeling fun and lightweight while constantly providing unbelievable depth and power with his parts.
“In Statis” kicks off its 10-track, fifty-minute runtime on familiar footing for MONUMENTS and their fans, bringing back ‘We Are the Foundation’-era lead singer Neema Askari on the album’s opener, “No One Will Teach You”. “We invited Neema to guest on ‘No One Will Teach You’ as a result of our writing discussions, where Andy identified two moments across the album where guest vocals would work well. ‘No One Will Teach You’ feels like a very ‘Gnosis’-like song, and it just felt so right to ask Neema to come back in and bring his unique process to the table.” From front to back, the new album pays homage to so much of what has made MONUMENTS a staple of the modern prog-metal scene while simultaneously pushing further into well-defined soundscapes, heftier hooks, and the strongest songwriting they’ve delivered to date.
Another factor that has brought this new record into a different strata is the contribution from mixing engineer George Lever, a new addition to the MONUMENTS production room that brings experience in shaping the sound of stellar new acts such as Loathe, Sleep Token, and Holding Absence. On “In Stasis”, his approach has not only formed diamonds on this record, but also laid a foundation for what’s yet to come. “We're thankful to George for his commitment to defining a new MONUMENTS sound, with a view to establishing this world into the future. Our first three albums came about as a result of their processes without too much focus on the output. With George's involvement, he really discussed our preferred styles and sounds and helped to build a great ‘fresh start’ with all future mixes in mind to build into that vibe. He's also been so much fun to work with. It really feels like the sound is now refined and a new ‘world’ has been created.”
“In Stasis” is a record that thematically gives voice to much of the uncertainty, isolation, and dread that is felt by so many in these tumultuous times in the world – and yet it finds MONUMENTS at what an outside observer would feel is their strongest and most empowered stature thus far. Tracks like “False Promises” and “Cardinal Red” display the balance of beauty and brutality that have made them fan favourites for all these years, while songs like “Opiate” and “Makeshift Harmony” bleed the lines between the two contrasts even deeper into something powerful and sublime. Whether it’s the stampeding thud of Swan on bass, Browne’s blistering and unbound time signatures bringing the heat on guitar, the return of Malyan’s furious and lively drum beats behind the kit, or the enthralling blend of harmony and guttural evisceration from Cizek – the new dawn of MONUMENTS will cement them as a group pushing the limits of technical metal for year to come.