Monument – Hellhound (Rock of Angels Records)Monday, 21st May 2018
UK traditional heavy metal resonates as a foundational genre. It’s hard to argue about the impact of it’s biggest benefactor Iron Maiden, as well as a subset that have influenced hundreds to thousands of others (looking at you Diamond Head) – but it’s exciting to hear newer bands that are developing over the past decade from this fertile breeding ground. Monument since their beginnings in 2011 have issued a steady stream of singles, EP’s and two full-lengths – eventually gaining a series of ex-White Wizzard members in the process (drummer Giovanni Durst among them), bringing us to their third album Hellhound. To say this could be a blockbuster effort for the hordes to champion is a serious understatement, as these nine songs in the main (plus three bonus tracks) elevate the band to greater heights of musicality, filled to the brim with proper hooks, gallops, twin-guitar harmonies, and melodies galore.
Opener “William Kidd” features that cultural guitar hook, shape-shifting rhythm foundation, and anthem-like chorus that made Running Wild a favorite for decades, while “Nightrider” settles into this hypnotic, mid-tempo riff and epic-oriented tempo that lives for the spirit of “Victim of Changes”/Judas Priest (even including ‘the sentinel’ lyrically as a tip of the cap to Halford and crew). But it’s hard not to notice that Iron Maiden past and present plays a key role in the outlook of Monument – guitarists Lewis Stephens and Dan Baune throwing down a bevy of Murray/Smith-oriented licks and tricks during “The Chalice” and the title cut, plus the necessary marching gallop a la “The Trooper” for “Attila” to elevate banners high and fists to the sky. As a singer, Peter Ellis has that Bruce Dickinson-esque range coupled with a Tobias Sammet playfulness, that dual charm making him a powerful entity and asset to get across all these songs convincingly. The main record ends on more of a Thin Lizzy-oriented bluesy note for “Straight Through the Heart”, rearing back for a bit of rock & roll send up that showcases a bit of their fun side.
The three bonus cuts include a couple of covers – Rainbow’s “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” fairly standard, the twin guitar aspect bolstering the sound in a more metallic way than the original with its keyboard/ guitar main interplay, while “Déjà vu” from Iron Maiden proving to be quite killer, one of this scribe’s favorites from the Seventh Son album. Add in the three-headed cyber monster for the cover and you have the makings of another UK treat that’s mandatory for the classic, traditional heavy metal follower who misses Maiden’s glory years.