Released By: Rock of Angels Records
Release Date: May 25th, 2018
Genre: Heavy Metal
Peter Ellis – Vocals
Dan Baune – Guitars
Lewis Stephens – Guitars
Daniel Bate – Bass
Gio Durst – Drums
1. William Kidd
2. The Chalice
3. Death Avenue
6. Wheels of Steel
7. The End
9. Straight Through the Heart
10. Creatures of the Night
11. Long Live Rock and Roll (Rainbow Cover)
12. Deja Vu (Iron Maiden Cover)
It doesn’t happen to me very often, but every once in a while I’ll listen to an album and something about it, either the tone, feel or maybe energy level, will make me think of a specific season of the year. The season that instantly comes to mind when listening to Hellhound, the latest from British heavy metal band Monument, is definitely Summer. The fast-paced, super energetic and very light sounding classic heavy metal sound instantly makes me think of days just a bit later in the year where I’ll either be outside in the heat or cooling down in my room, likely listening to some kind of upbeat and fun metal album to keep my spirits up to match the weather. But moving on from seasons, Monument is a fairly modern band, being established in the early 2010’s, and I was first introduced to them through their debut single Fatal Attack, which instantly gave fans an idea of what kind of sound to expect from the band. Between that and the their first two albums, Renegades and Hair of the Dog, the band had already established themselves as an excellent classic metal band, clearly inspired by many bands from the 80’s, and with Hellhound, they have stepped up their game further, producing their most consistently engaging album to date, while managing to sound more like an authentic 80’s heavy metal band than ever before.
Let’s get the obvious comparison out of the way from the start: Monument have clearly been influenced by the legendary Iron Maiden, there’s just absolutely no way a fan of classic metal wouldn’t pick up on the influences immediately. Everything from the galloping riffs, twin guitars, drum patterns and a tendency for speedy, high energy heavy metal, immediately brings the legends to mind, particularly some of their early to mid 80’s albums like Piece of Mind, Powerslave and Somewhere in Time. The guitar tone is so instantly recognizable at times, if anyone had been told it was a lost Maiden track from that period, without hearing any vocals, they’d probably believe it. The majority of the songs are very fast paced, with the dual guitars leading the way, delivering those epic galloping riffs as well as some amazing melodies and nice, fairly simple but fun guitar solos. The songs are mostly very high energy, with fun verses, very catchy choruses and the pace is fast enough to get me excited, without it ever getting carried away or drifting into power metal territory. There are a few slower songs as well, but these have enough memorable riffs and melodies to help make them energetic and memorable as well, and aside from one bonus track, there aren’t any duds here at all. Another cool thing about the album is that the band went for a real production sound, and so the result almost feels like you’re in the studio with the band as they play, instead of it feeling overly edited or altered, which is perfect for this kind of music.
One aspect that helps set the band apart just a bit is the vocals. Peter Ellis has a voice that manages to fit in well with a classic metal sound, while at the same time being much deeper sounding and a bit more intense than most heavy metal vocalists, which helps him to stand out from the pack. He has a very powerful voice and has an energetic, somewhat animated approach, but he never gets too carried away and he does a great job on the more melodic portions, as well as being very fiery and intense during the heavy sections. I wasn’t entirely sure about him when I first heard the band seven years ago, but I now think he’s a great vocalist and fits the band perfectly.
One area where I’ve found the band to be solid but a bit inconsistent in the past is in their songwriting. Both previous albums had their fair share of great, instantly memorable tracks, as well as some tracks, usually the slower ones, that tended to plod along and be a bit more bland and unremarkable. With Hellhound, though, the band has taken a more direct approach to their songwriting, with the majority of the tracks clocking in at well under five minutes, and so as a result, none of the songs drag. It also helps that even the slower tracks generally feel a bit tighter and better written than in the past, while the speedier songs are just as good as before, if not even better.
The album wastes no time getting started, with opening track “William Kidd” instantly kicking off with some nice guitar leads, before speeding up slightly and turning into an upbeat and fun classic metal track that is equal parts melodic, epic and hard hitting in the way the best songs in the genre tend to be. It has a very fun and catchy chorus, energetic verses and a fun instrumental section, and overall it helps get the album off to a great start, while being a perfect indicator of what to expect from the album, except that the guitar tone isn’t as obviously reminiscent of other bands in the way it is on some of the other tracks. That isn’t quite the case with the next track “The Chalice”, which while still not sounding overly familiar, definitely has a very classic heavy metal feel to it, especially with the dual guitar leads and its simple, but the epic chorus. It’s definitely another great upbeat track, though. Next is “Death Avenue”, the first track where the Maiden influences become blatantly obvious, with a lead riff that very much reminds me of a particular track, while the vocal melodies during the chorus manage to remind me of another track entirely. Either way, though, it’s a very fast, high energy track with great riffs, a fun chorus, and an excellent solo section, and it definitely ranks as one of my favorites on the album.
Staying on the speedy side of things, the title track once again has some incredible galloping riffs, which are again instantly recognizable, and it moves along at a frantic pace, with very upbeat verses, leading into a super catchy chorus, and while it is one of the most Maiden sounding track here by far, the guitar melodies, epic chorus and insane energy of the track help to make it one of my favorites on the album. Right after that is “Wheels of Steel”, which is one of the heavier tracks on the album, and once again the band’s influences are painfully obvious here, though the riffs and vocal melodies are so strong, I simply can’t help but love it anyway. The last speedy track on the main part of the album is “Attila”, track which keeps the same galloping riffs, high tempos and insane energy, without the actual melodies feeling terribly familiar, and so as a result, it’s another one of my favorites on the album, with the chorus, in particular, being incredibly catchy and epic, while the guitar solo is also one of the best on the album, for sure. One last speedy track is here as a bonus track, that being “Deja Vu”, and in case anyone instantly recognizes that name, it is indeed an extremely faithful cover of the track from Somewhere in Time, which of course fits the band’s sound perfectly, and they deliver it with the same energy they display on the rest of the album, making it an excellent cover of an excellent song.
On the slower side of things, “Nightrider” has a bit of a hard rock feel to it, plodding along at a slow pace, but with some classic sounding riffs that add some energy to the proceedings, while the chorus is simple but fun, and the rest of the vocal melodies are excellent, as usual. The longest track on the album is “The End”, a slow-paced but epic track which starts out with nice melodies before the drums kick in and pick up the intensity a bit, while still moving at a slow pace. For most of its duration, it’s a slow but heavy track, with some hard-hitting riffs and a slightly darker tone than the rest of the album, but the instrumental section in the middle picks up the tempo and brings in some excellent melodies, which gives way to an excellent ending sequence. The first half is a bit weak compared to most songs on the album, but from around the midway point onward it becomes amazing. The last track on the main part of the album is “Straight Through the Heart”, a mid-paced track which has some very classic sounding riffs and it moves at a nice pace, while having excellent vocal melodies and a very strong, catchy chorus, as well as an excellent guitar solo in the second half. The first bonus track is actually one of my favorites here, that being “Creatures of the Night”, another mid-paced and very melodic track, which has slow paced versus to go along with a slightly more upbeat, extremely melodic and catchy chorus, which might be my favorite on the album, and the solo is also amazing. Sadly, my least favorite song here is also a bonus track, that being “Long Live Rock and Roll”, a cover of the classic Rainbow track. The cover is performed well, as expected, but I simply never liked the song itself before and this version does nothing to change my opinion.
Overall, Hellhound is an excellent classic heavy metal album, and it ranks as my favorite Monument album to date. It contains the same high energy heavy metal sound the band’s past albums have had, with some excellent speedier tracks as well as some better slower tracks than normal, and the lack of any real longer songs actually helps to make it a breeze to listen to multiple times in a row. Definitely recommended for fans of the band, as well as for fans of early Iron Maiden who prefer their 80’s albums over anything else, and for any fan of classic heavy metal in the genre.
Written by: Travis Green