(Rock of Angels 2016)
Love the album title, not only for the Nazareth reference but also for the fact that it’s the band’s second album, their mascot is an English bulldog, and the best cure for a hangover is a little hair of the dog that bit you. So the name works on multiple levels. Cover artwork is likewise fantastic, a bar scene featuring said bulldog mascot, with such richness of characters and attention to detail that Derek Riggs would surely approve. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. If you’re a fan of traditional heavy metal, put Monument on your short list of newish bands to investigate. The London, England-based act was formed by three ex-White Wizzard members in 2011, and already has two stellar albums and an EP to its credit. Much like their American colleagues in Holy Grail (who formed under similar circumstances as the result of another White Wizzard implosion), Monument have the chops, the songwriting ability, and the fire in their bellies to be leaders of the true heavy metal revival and to eclipse anything their former act ever accomplished.
Let’s go ahead and address the elephant in the room now: Yes, Monument sound like Iron Maiden. Not the ponderous, plodding, self-indulgent, prog-rockish Iron Maiden of today, mind you, but rather the hard-charging, flame-throwing, adrenaline-junkie, pedal-to-the-metal iteration of the band circa ‘Number of the Beast,’ ‘Piece of Mind’ and ‘Powerslave.’ The resemblance is uncanny, from the delicious twin-guitar melodies to the galloping basslines to the air-raid siren vocals like Dickinson mixed with Lizzy Borden or something. Even the songwriting will definitely bring Steve Harris’s troupe to the forefront of your mind on songs like “A Bridge too Far,” “Imhotep,” “Emily” or even the instrumental “Olympus.” Your enjoyment of ‘Hair of the Dog’ is likely to be directly proportional to your tolerance for the fact that the band is inspired by, and appears dedicated to recapturing the glorious spirit of, mid-1980s Iron Maiden. If that kind of homage bothers you, kindly stop complaining and move along now, because there’s nothing for you to see here. But it’s your loss because Monument are killer. As for me, I loved it when Savage Circus came out and resurrected the old Blind Guardian sound, or when Blazon Stone took up the torch for classic Running Wild. By this I mean to say, I appreciate good, well-written music delivered with passion and skill even if there’s not a damn thing innovative, groundbreaking or original about it. Besides, Iron Maiden don’t sound like this anymore. They’ve moved onto a completely different style and sound. So if a talented new band wants to mine Maiden’s old territory further and try to take it one step further, why shouldn’t they? If the king has abdicated the throne to explore greener pastures, why shouldn’t a slobbering, beer-swilling, toothy English bulldog take its place?
At any rate, it wouldn’t be fair to pigeonhole Monument as an Iron Maiden copy band. There’s more to their sound than that, as evidenced by the pure NWoBHM swagger of “Crobar” (an ode to the famous London heavy metal pub of the same name) or the power-metallish “Lionheart.” Furthermore, the high energy level of the tracks, the obvious enthusiasm of the band, and the thoroughly modern, powerful production lend a freshness to ‘Hair of the Dog.’ This album doesn’t sound like a 30-year old relic just taken out of mothballs. These songs feel alive, they feel exciting, and they reach out and grab you by the scruff of the neck and command your attention. The band know how to write a catchy hook, they play like bastards, the twin guitar parts will wreck your neck, and the singer Peter Ellis is nothing short of outstanding. Monument have captured the essence of classic British heavy metal, executed with style and panache, and wrapped in a crushing sound job. Fans of the genre would be well advised to track down a copy of ‘Hair of the Dog’ (as well as the previous album, ‘Renegades’) without delay.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~