Review Summary: John Browne and Neema Askari return with a vengeance-and not a moment too soon.
One would have had to have been living under a rock in 2008 to miss the impact that British group Fellsilent had on the metal world with their debut LP, “The Hidden Words”. The Milton-Keynes-native boys’ explosive combination of SikTh-and-Meshuggah-inspired jagged, dissonant riffs, soaring clean melodies, groovy off-time drumming, funky slap bass and a spastic, hyper-aggressive dual vocal attack took the metal world by storm. “Immerse”, the lead single off their debut (and arguably the best song on the release) instantly blazed its way into the memory of many a metalhead with its ultra-catchy riffery and anthemic structure. Suddenly, the explosion of Meshuggah-inspired was reaching critical mass, and could no longer be contained. For better or for worse, like it or not, the movement touted (by many of the band members themselves) as “Djent” had officially arrived.
But unfortunately, the honeymoon was not to last. Soon after the release of their debut, guitarist (and one of the main pioneers of the “Djent” movement) Acle Kahney left Fellsilent for the exponentially-rising star that was his other project, TesseracT. Soon after, vocalist Joe Garrett, drummer Noddy Mansbridge and bassist Max Robinson also left the band, leaving only founding members Neema Askari on vocals and John Browne on guitar to forge ahead as the newly-rechristened Monuments.
Monuments’ debut 2010 EP, “We Are The Foundation”, proves without a doubt that, contrary to what many had assumed, Acle Kahney was not the only reason Fellsilent seemed to show so much potential as rising stars of metal. Far from resting on their laurels with the style they pioneered in Fellsilent, Browne and Askari, along with their newly recompleted line-up, have kept rolling forward. In fact, “We Are The Foundation” shows many marked improvements over Fellsilent’s work.
Browne and co.’s songwriting has improved in leaps and bounds in little over two years, presenting the listener with three ultra catchy tracks delivering unexpected turns and fist-in-air-moments galore. In fact, the songwriting present on “We Are The Foundation” exposes just how samey and recycled the songwriting in Fellsilent’s (albeit amazing) catalogue actually was. Beautifully elegant and majestic clean-guitar melodies are overlayed on top of brutal polyrhythmic riffing, containing an edge that is both melodic and highly aggressive. The vocals follow suit, combining catchy cleans that (surprisingly, for a band of this style) fit the song, perfectly layered over the top of Neema’s possessed, demonically rapid venom spitting. Greg Pope’s voice, though not as similar to Neema’s as former partner-in-crime Joe Garret, maintains a character all of its own, and actually meshes with that of Askari’s better than Garret’s ever did, both in composition and execution. The familiar slap-bass and off-time drumming are also back in full force, and, standing out even more due to improved production values and songwriting, both make their mark immediately on the band.
However, as with seemingly all bands of this genre, Monuments still have a few bugs to iron out. Neema and Greg’s dual vocals, especially their harsh ones, may be a bit rough and gritty for those who prefer their vocals a tad easier to stomach. So too, at little over ten minutes, “We Are the Foundation” is over before it can truly begin. This lack of running time and material is double-edged sword; raising hopes for the quick release of a proper debut while simultaneously raising questions about whether Browne and co. have enough material, or even potential, to deliver what this EP promises.
Whether or not the name of this EP is a stab at the many bands flowing into the genre-and Fellsilent’s apparent obscurity-by Browne and Askari is beside the point. With this release, Monuments show some great potential from a talented group of young musicians. Though not providing enough material to make a sure judgement, Monuments could turn out to be a major player in the metal scene in a few years’ time. This album, along with TesseracT’s latest release, proves that maybe sometimes a band’s splitting up isn’t always as bad as you think. Sometimes, you just end up getting twice the quality material.