Monument - Hellhound

Monument Hellhound cover
ROAR - Rock Of Angels Records
“Excitement fills the air
Tonight we cause a riot!
On iron horses
Watch us ride like knights of old
No weekend warriors in our midst
We cause a riot!
Our engines hold up
All that cannot be controlled”...
Namely, Monument’s classy, uplifting vibes and superior grasp of proper Iron Maiden emulation and reverence, ranging from hooking, distinctively nuanced verses and ridiculously catchy choruses, not to mention a gripping knack for wildly melodic and proficient guitar solos, which masterfully honor the British bulldog supporters’ glaringly obvious number one inspiration.
Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Permit me to backtrack a spell and methodically run the London based quintet’s third full-length, banally titled “Hellhound” (Joe Lizst and Co. called – they want their chthonic moniker back!) and recently released on CD and 12" vinyl under ROAR – Rock Of Angels Records, through the looking glass and explore the myriad reasons why it could very well be the trad metal linchpin/whipping post’s most formidable and redemptive offering to date, even surpassing its slickly polished, well-rounded 2016 sophomore, “Hair of the Dog”, with flying colors!
Discounting the digipak’s superfluous cover of Rainbow’s “Long Live Rock n’ Roll” and the oddly conducive reprise of Maiden’s “Déjà-Vu”, “Hellhound”, like its milder predecessors, encompasses ten riveting prime cut selections just short of fifty fun-filled minutes of dashingly fluid rhythms which range as much in tempo as in mood and ambiance while sagaciously eschewing the melodramatic buffering and buffeting previously gleaned on “Omega”, “Crusaders” and “Lionheart”, tepid tracks which, so far, have denied the gang from attaining that coveted 90% Metal-Archives rating. Evidently, a quick glance at the top of the screen assures glad tidings for those like myself who, over the years, faithfully put stock in Monument’s vast potential and prospective growth.
Right off the top, the ineluctable opener/buccaneering odyssey, “William Kidd”, magnificently sets this luxurious skiff afloat with an intensely wistful albeit vividly adventure-some guitar progression and excitable cumulative drum roll prior to fully catching wind in its sails thanks to the charismatic, heavily British sounding Peter Ellis and pair of ravishing fret-board defilers Dan Baune and Lewis Stephens, not to mention possible successor to the Harris throne, bassist Dan Bate and fellow cohort, drummer Giovanni Durst. Duly worth mentioning, they’ve all moonlit for the ailing “Weh-zahd” at one point or another. For a time leading up to the Los Angelinos’ redemption (i.e. Infernal Overdrive), poor Jon Leon must have been savagely scrunching his hat!
In the here and now, each “dog” duly pulls his weight. Extra consideration, however, should be given to Ellis’ consistence and congenial flair, especially at the songs’ inceptions, where he literally bowls one over with mondo-liberating gems such as the first verse of “Death Avenue”. Dig it!
"Feel the cold air of night
On your face
As your ride into the danger zone!
This is what you must prove:
You're a man,
Nothing must stop you now!”
Never mind Ellis’ radically cool and casual “danger zone” inflection! Strap in tight for this swinging knuckle-duster’s rad momentum and kick-ass chromatic guitar riff which, yes I know, sounds too much like Maiden’s “Two Minutes to Midnight”, but please, give me a break! Its languorous, un-stricken delivery and fervently bubbling bass line alone smack of hard-driving grandeur but once that main, seizing riff returns in full force following a typical scorcher of a solo or two you’re wishing the magic could last forever. A couple of decidedly uncharacteristic tracks consist of the menacing and early 80s Judas Priest evoking “Nightrider” and pseudo biker anthem in “Wheels of Steel” (Saxon beckons!), which is actually pretty neat because it hints of a new and improved, as well as wholly independent, way less “Maiden-ish” Monument, akin to a snake having just shed his old skin.
Even so, old habits die hard. Don’t be surprised to find a few blatantly give in to primordial urges, bearing down on the listener while waving a tattered Union Jack, Eddie style, with no regard at all for “metal community backlash” or reprisals. As much as I enjoy the stellar, fist-pumping bridges and phenomenal leads intersecting “The Chalice” and “The End” (ugh! the phone’s ringing off the hook now!), I can’t help but associate the former with “Can I Play with Madness” due to its whimsical guitar harmonies and cringe-worthy caterwauling chorus.
While the campy and tritely infernal lyrics to “Hellhound” proper also elicit a rueful chuckle, rest assured it makes up for this slight lapse with a healthy dose of signature Monument cheer and high melody. Alternatively, the tyrannical despot theme to the flagship “Attila” rightfully earns its place aside similarly woven tales of woe such as Maiden’s “Genghis Khan” or Wolf’s “Hail Ceasar”, for example. If anything, it provided a hell of an icebreaker as far as cursory, initial listens go; I doubt any other track would have reeled me in as fervently. As well, I admit things tend to drag on by the time “Straight through the Heart” rolls by; it's not a weak track, simply the closest thing to an actual power ballad while balancing a sufficient amount of oomph with a fair dose of amorous tendencies. Well, ‘tis the wild-oat sowing season, after all...
If you could do me a favor, please don’t tell anyone I’ve taken a real shine to the slyly festive, head-bopping Soho vamper/closer, “Creatures of the Night”, as Ellis particularly sounds like a super sardonic and lewd Bruce Dickinson on that pleasantly swinish Maiden classic and fan favorite from 1992, “Here to Eternity” (in case you’re wondering, that was the sound of my swivel chair being crumpled like an accordion).
Considering “Hellhound” is such a mighty step up for Monument, well-established and recently introduced fans alike should have no qualms savoring the (juicy) fruit of its labors. Granted, it goes without saying the lads could also always develop their own style further, yet at this rate, with its deeply rooted foundation and sky-reaching tendrils, consider it “un fait accompli”.