01. No Horizons
03. Two Wars
04. We Are Debt
07. The Polymath
08. Memento Mori
09. Mauna Kea
2008 Lifeforce Records
The only thing more stagnant than metalcore is a cheesy opening line for a review about metalcore. So without further ado, we'll jump right into the thick of things. Pennsylvania's This or the Apocalypse seems to have all of the marketing qualities that made dime-a-dozen metalcore bands into penny-a-dozen metalcore bands (the combination of a cheesy band name, "apocalyptic" imagery, and squeaky clean production is a bit much to ignore), but there's a catch. Well, I suppose it's only a catch if you were expecting the absolute worst, because it turns out that This or the Apocalypse's brand of Misery Signals and August Burns Red-type metalcore is actually pretty solid on all fronts. One might even go as far to call it quarter-a-dozen, or maybe, just maybe, dollar-a-dozen metalcore.
Monuments is the result of a few young guys who are rather talented in the instrumentation department, have an ear for some phenomenally catchy guitar leads, and have listened to Misery Signals' Of Malice and the Magnum Heart no less than four thousand times apiece. Off-time chugging, precise drumming, and vaguely dark lyrics that all fall along the lines of head-scratchers like "I have been once acquainted with the night / Dark ends darkness / Man ends mankind / No, there is no dawn" provide the foundation for This or the Apocalypse's musical formula. And it's perfectly okay, because they've refined their sound and execute it with ease. Tracks like "The Polymath" and "Mama Kea" stand out because of their heavy melodic focus; these guys are at their best when the songs have driving tempos and the guitar licks sound like they were borrowed from Shai Hulud. "Architeuthis" rips through a pretty effective combination of big one-string riffs and fast palm muting, all while packing just enough catchy chord progressions to stay memorable. Even "Memento Mori," This or the Apocalypse's subdued attempt at a "Worlds & Dreams" is enjoyable and well-placed, and their trick of burying the vocals extremely low in the mix gives the track a neat sonic texture.
The record, however, hits a few roadblocks when it attempts to incorporate a few too many techy breakdowns in odd time signatures. "We Are Debt" can't muster up enough melodic momentum due to an over-indulgence on the chugging, with the track hitting its low point as it closes with a mess of gross tapping and mathy rhythms. The closer, "Elegiac," also suffers from a stale and unnecessary early breakdown before ultimately gaining a stronger sense of direction. And there are just enough other examples of stagnant chugging and overused breakdowns to impair Monuments' overall listening quality.
But these moments shouldn't be enough to completely write these guys off. Sure, This or the Apocalypse's overall musical approach is far from original, but when they stick to memorable mixes of extremely catchy, nimble guitar leads and melodic chord progressions, they're pretty damn close to being worthy musical peers of Misery Signals. There's a lot of potential here and enough solid music to warrant some attention. All they need to do is to trim off some of the metalcore fat in the form of all-too-familiar off-time breakdowns and This or the Apocalypse would be definitely worth checking out.
Bottom Line: Listeners into Misery Signals and August Burns Red will find This or the Apocalypse to be right up their alley. Monuments' most shining moments are a result of some pretty slick melodic guitar leads and catchy chord progressions, but the disc gets stuck in a few too many boring breakdowns to get the complete stamp of approval. There's a lot of promise here, which is a whole hell of a lot more than can be said for most bands still clinging to the shreds of metalcore.