Monuments @ The Underworld, London

With Dead Letter Circus and Beneath Dead Waves,
30th September 2013

Review by Lee Carter
Photography by Inty Malcolm

Intimate venues such as Camden’s Underworld present bands the opportunity to get up-and-close with their fans and deliver them the music they love in the most direct manner possible, whilst the fans themselves can get as close to their heroes as possible. It is a scenario that any band can use to their advantage – the intimacy with which smaller venues provide can help bring them and their fans closer; almost enabling them to build a more personal relationship with them, as well as non-fans, and thus helping them to elevate themselves both performance-wise and in terms of appeal.

First up to try and use the smaller venue’s charms is Beneath Dead Waves and they present a distinct degree of mystery.
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Their website (and myriad of social media pages) all point towards a single YouTube video teaser trailer showcasing some choice passages from their upcoming album Inertia.

At a mere minute-seventeen alongside a twenty-second studio video of vocal tracking, there is scarce material for which attendees could become familiarised with – thus, Beneath Dead Waves are the night’s potential surprise package. Are they? Well, not quite.

Pedalling a solid brand of heavy metal with a neo-rock’n’roll-swagger to it opens proceedings reasonably well, but it doesn’t quite light the blue touch paper – there were some great moments, riffs and passages in their set (including some Tool-esque ambience) but they just seemed to fly by.

It may be down to restrictions as an opening band (shortened setlist, smaller crowd, etc.), but it would’ve helped no-end if, instead of racing through their set, they had slowed down and allowed some digestion to occur as well as offer a closer introduction to themselves for the crowd. As musicians and a band, they were tight and accomplished but blink and you’ll miss it.
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Nevertheless, it was an okay performance and should hold them in good stead for debuting their album when it drops – despite the blurring of their set, it’d be worth diving into the studio versions to find the gem-like moments.

Australia’s Dead Letter Circus and UNFD Records-natives follow and benefit from a fuller room, which frontman Kim Benzie uses to his advantage; conducting sing-alongs and movement like a seasoned maestro.

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Mixing select cuts from 2010’s This Is The Warning and their 2013 sophomore The Catalyst Fire, the crowd responded with verve to every song and mirrored the energy the band displayed – bassist Stewart Hill displayed so much of it with his jumps, dancing and movement that he could very well be limbering up to release a concert exercise DVD.
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The display was infectious; you couldn’t fail to enjoy the performance simply from the band’s own enjoyment and the crowd’s joy at the spectacle. Old and new songs, including “Lodestar”, “One Step” and even their self-titled EP’s “Lines” sat well amongst each other, blending the subtle quietude of Deftones and ISIS with the pounding and raucous moments of Tool perfectly.

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There is a great chemistry between the band which is particularly noticeable between the two guitarists Clint Vincent and Tom Skerlj – the two balance their roles of light, ambient cleans and distorted riffs with aplomb.

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Naturally, they are all anchored by the bombastic drumming of Luke Williams, who further adds to this energy that courses through the band and filters out to the crowd. Despite their set not being as fast as Beneath Dead Waves, nor as heavy, their fans are there before them and they thrive off it.

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It makes for a great performance and, should anyone be unfamiliar with their music, will have definitely convinced at least one person to go out and get their albums.

Century Media’s Monuments seem to follow the trend for most “djent” bands having vocalist troubles.

One album-in for the UK band, and they have gone through three. Despite the turbulence up front, they have brought in a fine replacement for former vocalist Matt Rose in ex-Periphery main-man Chris Barretto – the fresh blood has brought on a renewed fervour in Monuments and their frenetic performance demonstrates a band completely at ease and with eyes towards the future.

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Opening with the storming “Degenerate”, the band launches into a feat of off-kilter staccato rhythms and simultaneous headbanging – from drummer Mike Malyan, through the finger-flaying trio of John Browne, Olly Steele and Adam Swan, and up to the new boy Chris, they tear through it with venom. On Chris’ performance, he delivers a balanced mix of throat-frying screams and soothing melodies which were slightly hampered by occasional microphone intermittence – not quite as bad as cutting out, but there were times it would drop into the mix too far and he blended into the background.

Regardless, the crowd lap it up as their heroes, up-close and interacting with them, click up through the gears.

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Selecting choice excerpts from their debut Gnosis, including “97% Static” and the visceral “Empty Vessels Make The Most Noise”, the set never lets up on the relentless polyrhythmic assault. Midway through, they debut two new tracks in “The Creator” and “The Spirit Molecule” which are greeted with the same enthusiasm as their debut’s material.
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Even the command of Barretto’s for the crowd to drop to a knee to start a pit frenzy at the penultimate “Regenerate” is welcomed and carried out to the letter (save for two gentlemen supping their beer).

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The overarching theme for the night is that of energy and Monuments bring it in absolute spades – the night escalated through each band and now they are the climax. The evening’s closer “Admit Defeat” damn-near brings the house down and must have made patrons to the upstairs The World’s End pub consider bracing themselves for some form of structural defect.
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It is somewhat expected that as the night wears on towards the headliner’s performance that the evening would get better. Sometimes it doesn’t come off, but in this case it did – with this being one of their last tours promoting Gnosis, Monuments made the most out of the night and the closeness of their baying (and subsequently duly rewarded) fans to deliver a fine show.

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If the debuts of the new tracks are anything to go by, these guys can look forward to another acclaimed album. But for now, this was a fine display and one that rounds off Gnosis in London sublimely.