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MONUMENTS Phronesis

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Thursday, December 6, 2018 @ 6:26 AM


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MONUMENTS
Phronesis

Century Media Records




Like countrymen TESSERACT and American cohorts – in more ways than one – PERIPHERY, U.K.-based quintent MONUMENTS managed to fuse the tumult and thunder of djent/metalcore with richly melodic metal that made the music less intimidating and more inviting. And with its third album, the band has crafted its catchiest effort yet.

Phronesis, derived from the ancient Greek word for "wisdom" in case you were wondering, still boasts plenty of sock, but the progressive inclinations MONUMENTS demonstrated on its first two albums are less obvious here. The band has streamlined its songwriting to a degree to accentuate the anthemics and downplay the theatrics. And it proves to be something of a double-edged sword.

Where MONUMENTS' 2012 debut Gnosis and 2014's The Amanuensis were gymnastic and jarring, Phronesis is all about grooves – jagged though they often may be – and rousing choruses that take full advantage of Chris Barretto's soaring, resonant clean vocals. The onetime PERIPHERY frontman, and lone American here, is a more commanding presence than he was on The Amanuensis – his first with the band – and seems more comfortable and confident, despite the four-year lag between albums.

The choruses on Phronesis are, for lack of a better word, as “monumental” as they are omnipresent and oh-so sing-along-able – if occasionally profane, as on <>“Stygian Blue”'s “Hey, what the hell do you want from me? Honestly? Leave me the fuck alone” entreaty - as Barretto leads the way with his warble and bellow back and forth.

On the one hand, songs like “A.W.O.L.”, “Mirror Image” and the funkier “Jukai” and “Ivory” are catchy as hell and grab you right from the get go. On the other, though, when taken as part of the whole, they become a bit redundant with their more conventional construction and less charismatic presentation making for uniformity where once there was unpredictability.

That's not to say, however, there aren't some genuinely thrilling moments here. The heaving “Leviathan” is redolent with crushing riffs, as is “Hollow King”, which delivers some added crunch with its brisker tempo. “Vanta” and “Celeste” writhe with their stutter-step drumming and gut-punch hooks and show some of the elasticity of before – even if they are tempered a bit by Barretto's breathy cleans. “The Watch” builds to a concussive finale and closes the album with a dynamic flourish of guitar skronk and drum clatter that leaves you wishing there was more where that came from.

And despite its more commercial temperament, the music here is undeniably heavy. MONUMENTS hasn't necessarily tuned things down, as the sound is as big and brash as ever on Phronesis. But the band has stripped away some of the character and finesse that made it more vibrant and vital. The heft remains, but delivery can be rather tame, which ultimately steals some of the thunder MONUMENTS has shown it is more than capable of. And that's too bad.

3.0 Out Of 5.0


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