Let’s not beat around the bush; Monument are an Iron Maiden cover band. They’re not playing songs the Maiden released yet, but they probably traveled to the future to steal their fellow Brits’ upcoming hymns. While Monument aren’t sporting an iconic three-guitars line-up, the harmonic twin guitar leads, the prevalent bass licks and singer Peter Ellis’ vocals all pay homage to the greatest metal band in history (there, I said it). There aren’t as many Maiden mimics out there as one would expect considering the band’s huge influence – maybe musicians don’t dare to challenge the Maiden at their own game. After all, Iron Maiden‘s musical style is quite singular as opposed to the more or less rather typical heavy metal compositions of Judas Priest or Metallica, of which there are a million clones, simply because as soon as you play some kick ass riffs, you’ll be subjected to the comparison.
As such, the first band that came to mind (after Maiden…) when I listened to Monument‘s third studio album was Attick Demons, the Portuguese carbon copy of the Maiden featuring singer Artur Almeida, who really, really sounds like Bruce Dickinson. There are a few differences between Attick Demons and Monument though, which start with their singers. While Artur Almeida represents Bruce Dickinson’s raspier, screamier side (think “The Trooper”), Monument‘s Peter Ellis takes a much cleaner approach. This is a manifestation of the respective bands’ take on the classical Iron Maiden sound, while Attick Demons go all in on the speedy, riffy side of Iron Maiden, Monument take a step back and focus on a rather bluesy, rock-heavy interpretation of the classic formula.
Sure, you’ll find your typical “2 Minutes To Midnight” tracks on this album such as “William Kidd”, “The Chalice”, “Hellhound” or “Attila”, but even those songs seem more groovy than the average Maiden track, which peaks in laid-back, sleazy, bass-driven monsters like “Nightrider” or “Straight Through The Heart”, the latter being a pure tribute to ’70s rock. In this way, Hellhound is quite the entertaining album as it’s not a witless replica of Maiden disposables but instead presents its own identity and charm.
I’ll be honest, as heavy metal fan I much prefer the faster songs on Hellhound, which I suspect will be fan favorites much rather than the stylish, but in the end sluggishly slow songs. Luckily, the former prevail on Hellhound, with the title track impressing the most. Here the melodic twin guitars really shine, the fast and precise drumming gives drive and the bass is deliciously emphasized in the mix. If this was a track on a Maiden album, no one would bat an eye. Actually, maybe they would, as Maiden hasn’t written such a straightforward hymn in quite a while.
Lyrically, Monument don’t stray too far from their heroes’ heritage. Most notably you’ll find history-inspired tracks such as “William Kidd” and “Attila”, plus the occasional thematization of rock lifestyle and urban life. Cool, tasteful, smooth.
Hellhound comes with two bonus tracks, a cover of Rainbow‘s “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” and, you know it, Maiden‘s “Deja Vu”. Both are performed excellently and showcase the bands’ hybrid influence through ’70s rock and ’80s metal.
Monument take a challenge by trying to find their corner in a genre filled completely by one overly powerful band, a challenge which they master easily. Sure, at times you’d rather listen to Iron Maiden themselves, but Monument bring enough of their own spin to the formula that Hellhound is an entertaining album full of hits for everyone who wishes for Iron Maiden to write songs shorter than ten minutes again. I was impressed by Hellhound in a way only the mighty Attick Demons could impress me with in 2012, and I expect Monument to stick around for a long time with their fun music.