Album: Hair of the Dog
Genre: Heavy Metal
Label: Rock of Angels Records
After their debut full-length album and a string of lesser releases, Monument have returned to the scene with the release of their second full-length effort. Like a good number of heavy metal bands who have formed in recent years, there is a clear effort on their part to revive the good old days of heavy metal. Though in this case, that strong effort pretty much boils down to trying to do their best to sound like Iron Maiden. They have a lot of those hallmarks down pretty well too: everything from a vocalist who can compete with Dickenson’s wailing howls down to a bassist who seems to adore the thumping bass work Steve Harris (though he isn’t nearly as high in the mix).
But to be fair, there are a couple of substantial departures in their sound. Firstly, they are a faster band overall. They aren’t quite fast enough to put themselves into the speed metal territory of bands like Savage Grace, but there is still a sufficient difference in speed that you can notice it without trying. Secondly, the riffs are slightly more fluid giving the songs a less disjunct feel than a lot of Maiden’s work. But other than that, you can see the stamp of the classic band all over this record.
Something I noticed after a couple listens was that the first half is basically just OK. The title track, which also happens to be the album opener, is a solid start to the album, but the next few songs aren’t significantly engaging. They are decent enough, and certainly inoffensive, but also mostly unmemorable. With the exception of “Imhotep” which is the clear highlight of the first half, it isn’t until the second side starts that you really hear Monument excel.
The most interesting about the second half is that it’s the half that sounds the least like Maiden. Don’t misunderstand me though – it’s still Maiden through and through – but you can hear a combination of other influences far more strongly as well as their own originality shine through. The latter half kicks off with “Emily”, which though it is easily the weakest song on of the bunch but still superior to nearly all of the songs on the first half. You can hear the Maiden influence waning with this piece as they take on a darker tone. And from there, the album just gets better and better with each track. They even have a fantastic instrumental which was the first of all the tracks to get my attention, which is especially odd since I consider the vocals to be an integral part of heavy metal. By the end of the album, when the six-minute epic track “Lionheart” finished, I was blown away.
With repeated listens, nothing really changed about my perception of the album: the first have was mostly drab and forgettable, and the second half consistently delivered every time. I feel like in keeping with the classic era of metal, they could have removed three songs, and delivered a strong and consistent full-length album with a run time just under forty minutes instead of an hour-long album with filler tracks. But there are worse complaints you could have about an album and nobody is going to stop you from skipping tracks you don’t like. For that reason alone, I think this album warrants some attention. Besides, if you happen to like Maidenesque heavy metal, you may very well end up liking the first half just as much as the second half.