It’s beginning to seem as though long-delayed debut albums and unsettled line-ups are as fundamental to the modern metal subgenre known as ‘djent’ as extended-range guitars, staccato riffs, drumming that practically demands a four-dimensional metronome to chart its polyrhythmic battering, and chiming, glassy clean guitars. Gnosis, the debut full-length by London djentsters Monuments, has been in the works for three years now, held in limbo by the loss of not one, but two vocalists; Neema Askari and Greg Pope. The delay must have been particularly frustrating for the band, as their three-song EP We Are The Foundation had already pricked up ears worldwide, only to be buried somewhat by a flood of releases from bands eager to jump on the djent bandwagon. Thankfully, the band found a vocalist in Matt Rose, formerly of drum and bass act The Qemists, and were able to finally bring Gnosis to completion – and the good news is, even though Monuments are working within a much more crowded field than they were at the time of We Are The Foundation‘s release, they stlll bring enough to the table to distinguish themselves.
The first thing you’ll notice about Gnosis is that it’s probably the heaviest djent release outside of Meshuggah‘s last effort. While Tesseract embrace their progressive and ambient tendencies, and Periphery skew more towards the Sikth-esque end of the technicality scale, Monuments prefer to deliver teeth-rattlingly heavy slabs of elephantine riffs wrapped in an absolutely massive production. Sure, album opener ‘Admit Defeat’ may start with the comfortingly familiar swell of chiming clean guitars, but it’s not long before guitarists John Browne and Olly Steele and bassist Adam Swain shake the listener with a riff that sounds like nothing so much as the noise of an android choking on a rusty ball of swarth, while Mike Malyan’s kick drums drive home the rhythmic pummel of the riffs like oversized rivet guns. Matt Rose’s contributions drive home the aggressive nature of the music too, providing as he does a very nice line in raw, full-throated roaring and screaming that contrasts with his smoother, higher-pitched clean singing to great effect – and he has a more nuanced grasp of how to flow between those approaches than simply alternating between clean verses and shouty choruses. See, for instance, his rapid ascent from dulcet spoken word to rabidly enraged screaming early in ‘Degenerate’, providing an effective graduation in intensity.
That’s not to say, however, that Gnosis is an album that is one-dimensional in its commitment to punishing grooves and naked aggression – there are moments where those obligatory delay-soaked clean guitars come together with some of Rose’s more soaring moments of clean crooning to provide for a more expansive, less threatening atmosphere – see, for instance, the mid-section of ‘Doxa’, or ‘Blue Sky Thinking”s more ambient passages. However, those moments are there to provide context for and contrast from Gnosis‘ chief mode of attack – sheer, full-bodied heaviness. All of which makes Gnosis an ideal record for those djent sceptics who were growing disenamoured of the genre as it seemingly moved further from the monolithic crush of Meshuggah‘s initial template to proggier, more melodic and ambient climes. If the increasing prevalence of progressive indulgences, ambient noisescapes and falsetto’d clean vocals in djent left you cold, Monuments‘ commitment to providing ribcage-rattling grooves and and swinging android fistfuls of riffs thoughout Gnosis might well be just for you.