Last year was quite the year for British progressive metal outfit Monuments. Four years after the release of The Amanuensis , this mishmash band of vagabonds finally released a third studio album, Phronesis, which guitarist John Browne agrees was entirely worth the wait.
Right across the world, the prog movement has evolved to become one of the forerunning sounds in music, and it’s a movement Browne says Monuments are proud to be a part of.
Like most genres, prog could be considered a spill-over from its popular predecessors; Browne agrees that prog stems largely from noughties nu-metal. The scene has grown considerably from there, and though Monuments have only just released their third album, it’s never been a better time to insert such an offering into an exploding scene. “The third album is always an important one,” says Browne. “If you look back at most bands, the third album defines the band. It’s the make or break. Take Karnivool and Cog. Since 2004, maybe earlier on your side, prog has grown quite large.
“Some types of music have taken a bit longer but the western world started paying attention to this style of music since 2010. It’s brewed bands like Tesseract, Monuments, The Contortionists, Skyharbor. I’m happy people are starting to enjoy this style of music.
“2018 [was] a good time to put out a new album. The genre’s been appreciated for about eight years at this point and if we go by the cycle of how long a genre lasts, it’s generally about ten years, isn’t it?”
It’s true that the prog era is at its peak right now. Though Monuments never planned to unleash Phronesis (from the Greek word for wisdom) when they did, it served them well. Monuments have always displayed not only a certain level of self-awareness, but societal awareness; Phronesis, however, pushes them over an edge, the band gaining more wisdom throughout the writing process. “Chris [vocalist Chris Barretto] wanted a blank slate, not having to write to someone else’s thoughts,” explains Browne. “We had the album title for the last release, but it didn’t suit. All of a sudden, lyrics were coming through on this cycle and we thought it fit the title really well.
“A lot of the lyrics are to do with sad scenarios that Chris found himself in, that were not necessarily positive. One of the messages we wanted to make with this is that you have to make mistakes to learn from them, which is what Phronesis is about, a specific type of wisdom relating to practical things. A spiritual wisdom.”
When it came to naming songs and creating lyrical content, this wisdom seemingly became a fundamental element to Monuments’ creative process. “One of the songs on the album, ‘Stygian Blue’; ‘stygian’ is an impossible colour the human eye can’t see but we know it exists,” explains Browne. “‘Blue’ refers to depression. Depressed people have a thing where they’re very good at hiding – take Robin Williams – that they’re depressed. The lyrical content is about the voice in your head.”
Monuments’ music still epitomises their journey, capturing their life’s essence through each album. As such, they’re always accumulating wisdom. “Music is a catharsis,” says Browne. “I use it to expel negative emotion – sometimes positive emotion. Music is another form of language. If you can create a moment in music that explains how you’re feeling, then that’s a good way to expel it.”
Monuments will headline PROGFEST 2019 for the festival’s 10th anniversary celebrations in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane from Saturday January 26 – Monday January 28. For tickets, visit Wild Thing Presents.