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Graduates School of Maiden Magna Cum Laude - 82%

CHAIRTHROWER, January 21st, 2018
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Rock of Angels Records

All this talk about White Wizzard and the new wave of traditional heavy metal makes me turn towards yet another memorable revivalist, London's Monument, which features a bunch of ex-Wizzards who compellingly recreate the highly melodic sounds of yesteryear, namely Iron Maiden in its prime circa 1982-1986. Some might balk at such emulative overtures but rest assured the Brits firmly re-capture the masters' magic while injecting a massive amount of good-time chutzpah into their ten-tracked sophomore release, Hair of the Dog, released on CD in 2016 under Rock of Angels Records.

Seeing as one-time Wizzard front man Peter Ellis (briefly filling in for Wyatt "Screaming Demon" Anderson on the Los Angelinos' Shooting Star Dio tribute single) is at the helm and that he sounds so distinctively British at every turn, you may address me as "Chayrthrowah" for the remainder of this review. Pleasantries aside, he nails it as far as steering his band mates towards back-to-back, six-minute long finales, namely "Heart of Stone" and "Lionheart" (which I believe is Mel Gibson approved). They're not too shabby as far as late "epics" go but fail to match the preceding forty minutes of lead n' bass heavy party anthems which range from a propulsive titular opener to sure-fire highlight, "A Bridge Too Far", by way of a raucous, "22 Acacia Avenue" mimicking bar hopper in "Crobar" - most likely a club in Soho - and grandiose, "Where Eagles Dare" sounding "Olympus".

This is the thing: it's painstakingly evident Monument is aping its primary influence but I've always felt it's no cause for alarm provided it's done with class and a high level of musical aptitude. That said, Hair of the Dog (and the 2014 full-length debut, Renegades, for that matter) gives the impression of having been produced in the mid-80s alongside another possible influence, Whitesnake, as attested by the lyrics of "Streets of Rage" - all that "In the still of the night-ism!" - which, might I add, possesses a groovy, cruise control kind of momentum, Ellis' snippy vocal inflections withstanding, very similar to Maiden's "Invaders", in my opinion a largely unheralded gem! This last is another fiercely highlighted by Dan Baune's and fellow one-time Wizzard Lewis Stephens' revved up, shredding chops.

Perhaps the most glaring Iron Maiden copycat-ism is the bridge and pre-solo section of "Imhotep (The High Priest)", which smacks of "Powerslave" proper, whilst Ellis decidedly sounds a whole lot like Bruce Dickinson for the track's duration. No matter, I dig it, as said 1984 masterpiece, with its classic stretch of insanely melodic leads, turned me into an inveterate metal maniac early on in life, so props to the bulldog loving band for ardently supplying the memories!

On that note, two particular tracks auspiciously hint of maturity: the laid-back albeit poignant, epic rocker "Blood Red Sky" and trophy girlfriend dirge "Emily". The former has a compelling way of sinking its hooks in thanks to Ellis' colorful nasal delivery and overall tucking rhythms whilst the latter is more pendulous and bass-y than it's cute title implies. Actually, it's along the lines of the debut's super upbeat "Runaway" yet less thrilling than say, "Streets of Rage" or "A Bridge Too Far". It also risks transforming its audience into hopping n' bopping, drunken, pant-less revelers but who's to say? My one gripe, however small, is the feeble production which neglects Giovanni Durst's competitive skins. Thankfully, Dan Bate's sinuous Steve Harris-like bass playing is no worse for wear.

In short, Monument doesn't re-invent the wheel; it simply hops on board for multiple revolutions. Although some tracks from Renegades are resolutely catchier (i.e. "Fatal Attack", "Midnight Queen", "Carry On"), Hair of the Dog solidly upholds the vitality and verve of a by-gone era. Heck, the snazzy cover alone drew me in quicker than a flea!