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By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Wednesday, April 20, 2022 @ 11:02 AM

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In Stasis

Century Media Records

In Stasis is a pretty apt description for the relative lack of activity we’ve all endured as the pandemic took away so much of what we would normally do and pretty much left us trapped in time for a couple of years. And while it also forms the basis of the central theme of fourth album from British djent/core quartet MONUMENTS – and indeed a lot of new music these days – things are rarely “static” for the band itself, at least as far as its roster is concerned, COVID or no.

Since its last album, 2018’s Phronesis, the band parted ways with yet another frontman, Chris Barretto, added new vocalist Andy Cizek, welcomed back former drummer Mike Malyan, and bade farewell to Daniel Lang - who had replaced Maylan’s replacement Anup Sastry in 2016 - and longtime second guitarist Olly Steele. Only founding guitarist John Browne and bassist Adam Swan remain from the Phronesis lineup.

The addition of Cizek brings the total of MONUMENTS frontmen to a half-dozen since it formed in 2007. Baretto sang on the last two albums, Matt Rose was featured on the 2012 debut Gnosis, after the band had cycled through three earlier vocalists. Ironically, one of them, Neema Askari, makes a guest appearance on In Stasis as does Spencer Sotelo, who replaced Barretto in PERIPHERY before he joined MONUMENTS. So there’s a weird “six degrees of something” going on here.

Yet despite the constant motion on the personnel front, the band has been able to keep moving forward - either in spite of or because of the turbulence – and build an imposing, yet engaging sound that ably melded its progressive, melodic and aggressive inclinations. With In Stasis, however, MONUMENTS hits a bit of a rough patch.

In Cizek, the band has its most gymnastic vocalist yet. Here, he slingshots from authoritative shout to metalcore shriek and death metal/deathcore guttural roar to boy band-like warbly cleans – stopping just about everywhere in between along the way. For a band with an already somewhat disjointed sound – and I don’t mean that as a knock – this is both a blessing and a curse.

Cizek shows himself more than able to match the music’s abrupt mood swings and hard/soft back and forth. But where he could have used his voice as a unifying element to provide some sort of center to the histrionics, Cizek instead either simply plays along or merely piles on, with the end result sounding jumbled rather than focused and often just shrill - especially when compared to the anthemic Phronesis that made ample use of Barretto’s finesse, though to the point of almost sounding tame.

That’s not really an issue here, as the band seemed intent on building the jagged edges back into its sound with the elastic, jarring In Stasis. But where some finesse could have honed those edges while still leaving them sharp, Cizek’s multiple-personality caterwauling instead attacks from every angle and make things all the more strident and pointed – despite countering them with abundant cleans - at least until the better balanced and satisfying back third of the album.

The front end of In Stasis is dominated by shit-fit screams that accompany and sometimes overpower the frisky, heaving riffs and stutter-step tempos. The most extreme stretch encompasses the middle, courtesy of the brutish, deathcore-pocked “Collapse”, the undulating “Arch Essence” with Cizek and Sotelo’s good cop/bad cop interplay and the crunching, rap/nu-metally grooves and cadence of “Somnus” The clean choruses and sweeping melodies that bob and weave throughout provide moments of genuine catchiness, but often seem obligatory and insistent. I wonder if MONUMENTS wouldn’t have been better served by just going full-on all the way through in some cases and skipping the melodious sections altogether.

Thing is, though, the band is actually at its best here when it injects more melody and pulls back on some of the ‘core thunder. “Cardinal Red”, the album’s third track, offers a pretty even balance of clamor and catchiness and sounds great as Cizek delivers just enough scream-and-sing dichotomy.

The same is true, to varying degrees, as In Stasis closes with “False Providence”, "Makeshift Harmony” and epic, more dramatic “The Cimmerian”. Here, the band injects electronic tinges/synthsinto the mix, flips the script to use bombast to counter the melodic main body of each track and gives Cizek more space to sing, making his “dirty” vocals that much more effective.

It’s too bad MONUMENTS left this until the end. Some shuffling of the sequence might have given In Stasis better balance, made some of the noisier, belligerent moments a bit less off-putting and delivered for a more engaging album overall.

2.5 Out Of 5.0

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