Monument – Aces High

Monday, 11th June 2018

Proudly British and waving the banner for heavy metal high, Monument seem destined for glory based on their brief output to date. Their third album Hellhound reminds us of the days when Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Running Wild ruled the landscape – where twin guitars and falsetto screams made listeners jump, gallop, and fall to their knees. Taking careful consideration into what makes British metal distinct and special, they also aim to deliver the best overall packaging for the consumers to get the most bang for their bucks.

After consuming numerous playbacks of Hellhound, we reached out to vocalist Peter Ellis to learn more about this band. In this conversation you’ll learn more about their outlook on heavy metal, the importance of proper management and label support to achieve their goals, a healthy amount of Iron Maiden talk, and even Peter’s work in Leather Rebels, who design title belts for the WWE among other companies.

Dead Rhetoric: How did you start on your musical journey, and what sparked your interest in becoming a singer and eventually moving on to forming bands?

Peter Ellis: Right. My mom was a singer, so I practically grew up in the studio. I was exposed to music as a very young age- I wrote my first song when I was probably five or six years old. I started playing the guitar when I was four- it’s just something that’s always been there. In terms of heavy metal, I was first exposed to it through a Manowar cassette that a cousin of mine had. He just played the stuff, and it blew me away. I was about ten or eleven, and I knew that this was the sort of sound that I was going to pursue. And that’s basically how things started for me.

I played classical guitar and taking lessons at the age of nine and I studied for eight years classical music. From that, I moved to the electric guitar, and I became a singer at the age of nineteen or twenty, I started singing in bands.

Dead Rhetoric: You started Monument in 2011 to bring true British heavy metal back to the scene. Can you discuss the challenges you faced in convincing the right set of musicians to accomplish your vision and outlook on metal – especially considering it probably was not the ‘hip’ style at the time?

Ellis: It really wasn’t, it was extremely difficult to get musicians in the early days of the band. Especially back then, because it was all about the emo scene and all that sort of stuff, which I despise passionately. There was obviously no money in it, we were just a DIY band, it was very challenging. We went through a ton of different members between the formation of the band and the first album.

Dead Rhetoric: Where would you see the progression of the band based on your previous two albums Renegades and Hair of the Dog to this third full-length Hellhound? Do you believe you’ve refined and honed in more about what qualities or characteristics best make Monument unique or special?

Ellis: Absolutely. I think you can really see the progression in the songwriting with this new album. The thing is with us, I don’t necessarily consider us to be a retro band, like a New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal band. We are a British heavy metal band that just plays the music of today. It’s not a gimmick or something we are trying to force- it’s just who we are. With that said, we are not afraid to experiment and go to different places with our music. We don’t always want to do one single thing with ourselves, like a lot of bands do within that so called New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal genre. With songs like “The Chalice” for example, or “The End”, or even “Creatures of the Night” – there’s so many different elements to the sound of the band that appear with this new album. I think you can hear the progression in the songwriting for sure in this one.

Dead Rhetoric: The new album Hellhound contains many songs that are definitely paying tribute or homage to specific true/traditional acts in the scene – specifically Running Wild in “William Kidd”, Judas Priest for “Nightrider”, and Iron Maiden in other songs. Was this a conscious decision in creating these songs, and tell us what these particular artists meant to you through the years when it comes to your own metal outlook and philosophy?

Ellis: Iron Maiden is the number one influence obviously. I grew up with Iron Maiden, and I’ve been a part of in some ways the Maiden family for many, many years. It shaped who I am. I became a singer because I couldn’t find a singer that could sing the stuff the way Bruce Dickinson does. When I realized I could, I was like ‘oh- I should be doing this.’. I also was massively into Running Wild growing up- and it shows up sometimes. I’ll write a riff, and it just sounds like Running Wild without me even realizing it. Others will tell me what it sounds like. Priest- obviously, Rob Halford is one of my main influences when it comes to vocals, all the falsetto stuff that I do comes from him. Yes, these three bands are the major influences – more so Maiden and Priest, Running Wild in smaller doses.

Dead Rhetoric: You created three bonus tracks for the album -including Rainbow and Iron Maiden covers. How did these come about for the bonus material?

Ellis: We are all big fans of Ritchie Blackmore’s work, in Deep Purple and Rainbow. “Long Live Rock and Roll” is just one of those songs you just learn when you start doing covers at some point. We all knew the song, we thought that we could actually do something pretty cool with it. We added harmonies and things of that nature to make it sound more Monument if you will. Maiden- obviously, it just suits us more than anything. That was a no-brainer. And now “Creatures of the Night”- the song has a very different vibe to the rest of the album. We decided to still include it, but as a bonus track because we felt that it changed the vibe of the album too much.

Dead Rhetoric: Stan Decker designed the cover art once again for the new record – what do you like most about working with him, and is the final product his vision alone or does this become a collaborative, back and forth process between the band and artist to get what you want?

Ellis: The vision is always mine, 100%. I always give Stan a vision, and as much detail as I possibly can, and he will take my vision and bring it to life. There is so little back and forth because we’ve been working with him exclusively since day one, he’s like a member of the band at this point. To me, he’s the best out there today. I just love how he knows what I’m after, and can bring my vision to life effortlessly. He’s a vital part of the Monument machine for sure.

Dead Rhetoric: Can you discuss the importance of conveying proper cover art in heavy metal – and incorporating this into the merchandising ideas?

Ellis: Absolutely. In my opinion, I think we have the best artwork of any heavy metal band in the past thirty years. Most bands out there use a random skull, and that’s job done. Or just some generic artwork without any specific meaning behind it. I think that’s doing the fans a disservice. Your artwork is as important as the music, in my opinion, in heavy metal. Artwork has always been priority for us since day one.

Dead Rhetoric: Describe Monument in terms of a live performance – what do you hope the audience gets out of the band, and what do you think makes for an ideal gig?

Ellis: Energy. We put everything into our stage performance. It’s pure animalistic passion and energy. I think the fans can see that and feel that, and that’s the best – the gigs that you are into, the crowd is into it, a real sort of tangible energy back and forth between the band and the crowd. That’s what we are all about- the stage performance and the live show.

I love the festivals – you are playing in front of a lot more people. It’s a grander atmosphere if you will. There’s something really cool about playing a really big, outdoor festival. I really enjoy those a lot.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of UK metal today? Do you believe there is a new found respect not only for the NWOBHM glory days of the late 70’s to mid-1980’s, but followers that now look a little deeper into discovering and appreciating the new talent that exists currently?

Ellis: It’s a strange one in the UK. There isn’t much support for the true British heavy metal in the UK from the press that is. Unless the press here supports something, it’s not going to happen. There’s many reasons for that, and a lot of it is cultural. But that’s a deep conversation as to why that is. I know there are fans that are hungry for a band like Monument for example, and we’ve had a core fanbase in the UK since day one- but without the support from the press in the same manner that we get from other countries in Europe, it’s hard for us to do the same sort of gigs here that we are able to do abroad. We will be playing on one of the main stages at Bloodstock, which is one of the main two festivals in the UK – so there is a core fanbase, but people seem to be promoting more of the American stuff and those sort of sounds.

Dead Rhetoric: That’s a shame. You have some of the best metal publications in the UK in comparison to the United States. I’ve looked at Metal Hammer, Terrorizer, Iron Fist, even Fireworks and Powerplay – but there seems to be better coverage for hard rock and heavy metal in the UK than in America…

Ellis: Out of all the magazines that you mentioned, only Powerplay and Iron Fist were the ones who have covered Hellhound. I’ve spent the past few weeks doing interviews with every single Metal Hammer magazine in Europe, other than the UK, who didn’t even do a review of the album, let alone an interview. That says a lot about the state of the scene.

Dead Rhetoric: And what about radio play in the UK – are there opportunities there, or is it another tough sell?

Ellis: Ok, I will go there. In the UK there’s a mentality in the past 15 years that if you support anything that has the word British in it, and you are British, that somehow it will make you seem racist. There’s a real effort that (occurs) towards not promoting anything of that sort in the UK press. Unfortunately for us we stand for something, and we stand for our British musical heritage. But that makes us sort of a no touch band, in the mainstream music press in the UK. How can we be accused of racism though when I was actually born and raised in Greece? (laughs). I fail to see that. That’s the sort of treatment we get for reminding people where heavy metal started from. I do feel passionate about this, I think it’s bullocks. Britain created heavy metal, it’s a distinctly British thing – but to not be supporting the thing that’s bringing that sound back, to not promote that in the UK is shameful, and it says a lot about the state of things in the UK, unfortunately.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve been with Rock of Angels Records since 2016 – and Akis Kosmidis the owner of the label is also the band’s manager. Discuss the role and importance of record label support, even in a current marketplace where so many bands because of social media and the internet are able to accomplish things independently?

Ellis: You can accomplish things independently to a degree, but you cannot do things at a bigger level without someone like Akis for an example, a manager or a label that truly believes in you. We could be with one of the big indie labels out there, and just another band on the label – we would have minimal support. Even though Rock of Angels is not as big as other labels, at least I know that we have their full attention and we are a priority project. If you look back to bands like Metallica, they were on a smaller label as a priority project. I cannot stress how important that is, to have proper label support and manager backing. It’s essential.

Dead Rhetoric: Is that why you believe Monument has been more successful in other countries, because of that attention?

Ellis: The thing is, we have the same press agent. They will send our material everywhere, and in the UK, it’s just the UK won’t cover it. The fans across the world have been waiting for a band like us for decades, a band from England that sounds like a band from England. Everyone is really excited and is really getting behind us, because they really want us to succeed. Obviously at the same time, what we are doing we do with a sort of a certain level of class and respect for the bands that our sound is founded upon. For example, I would say that we are to Iron Maiden what Greta Van Fleet are to Led Zeppelin- but with that being said, they never give credit to Led Zeppelin for their sound. Clearly they are the major influence behind that band. We have that class to say yes, Maiden and Priest have influenced us to an insane degree, and we are proud of it.

Dead Rhetoric: I agree. And in a way, I think your vocal range reminds me of Bruce Dickinson with Tobias Sammet of Edguy…

Ellis: Thank you! Edguy- Tobias is such a great singer. I remember hearing Edguy for the first time when I was a teenager – I thought at first it was like Bruce, but he has a bit of a German accent. My God, there’s a guy out there that sings like that. Younger fans today, when they hear that and listen to me, I bet they think that it’s great to hear someone out there that still does this style, that’s awesome.

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