Monuments return to SA with a fresh take on their prog-metal legacy

July got off to a rocky start for UK prog-metal band, Monuments as Chris Baretto, long-time vocalist and lyricist, played his final show with the band. They announced this on Facebook and the post sent strange ripples through the metal-verse.

Leading up to the band’s return to SA for a two-date tour in August, I caught Olly Steele (guitarist since 2011) and Andy Cizek (Baretto’s “fill in”), for a chat between shows.

Days after Cizek’s debut as Monument’s new frontman, trouble on the airport caused them to miss their flight to Milan. This forced them to cancel their performance at Dissonance Festival 2019. “It sucks, we’ve had our share of dramas but not being able to attend a gig at all is one of the worst things a band can experience,” Steele admits.

I ask how fans have reacted since Baretto left and Steele responds, very solemnly saying, “Understandably many are upset and disappointed, this is the nature of these things.” He breaks and his subsequent words take on a decidedly more positive tone confessing, “I don’t see this as an entirely bad thing, it confirms that together [with Baretto] we made music that has affected people positively.” But that time is over now.

What I most like about Steele’s approach is his willingness to let a new person in as he explains, “There has been a lot of buzz and excitement from the public about Andy filling in, and I can definitely speak for everyone in the band when I say we share that feeling.”

They’ve replaced a number of band members before. I ask Steele whether this has caused him to feel overprotective over the music and letting someone new in. “Music is chemistry between people so if new people are introduced, things are bound to change over time. Given the nature of this progressive music,” he laughs. “I doubt we’ll ever stop experimenting with our sound and including new ideas.”

While Cizek knows he’s got massive boots to fill, the kid’s a crazy talented vocalist, fronting two other bands: Makari and WVNDER, each with its own decent following.

Being thrown into the deep end of a legacy of music and lyrics, I wonder how he manages to connect, so convincingly, with music he played no hand in writing. “In the past, I have always made up my own interpretation of the lyrics when listening to Monuments. There’s always been something in each track that can relate to in my own way, whether or not it be the true intention of the song.”

Cizek does his research thoroughly: “I’ve had the opportunity to chat with the other members of the band for their certified takes on the meanings of several songs. A combination of that and my own personal feelings is what shines through during live performances.”

Die hard fans had better get over themselves now, ‘cause Cizek’s fronting their SA tour and he’s coming in hot. They’ll be performing on Friday, the 9th of August at Mercury Live, Cape Town (with Thread of Omen), and on Saturday, the 10th of August at Platteland, Pretoria (with Red Helen).

Deity’s Muse, who are currently touring Europe with Monuments, will join both line-ups. While early birds are sold out, general tickets are still available on Computicket.

Neck braces sold separately.