Emmure, We Came As Romans and more at Backstage (2014)

Backstage (Munich, Germany)

Emmure, We Came As Romans, Protest The Hero, Monuments
  Considering it was a Monday night, and taking into account that the German soccer […]
By Erika Kuenstler
June 30, 2014


Considering it was a Monday night, and taking into account that the German soccer team was playing against Algeria that night, I was very pleasantly surprised at the turn-out at Munich's Backstage venue. But then, given the line-up, it was hardly surprising that the core fans had turned up in their masses to pay homage to the slew of bands performing that night.


First up on stage was MONUMENTS, a multinational Hardcore band with some serious groove going on. With their new album "The Amanuensis" having just been released in Europe, fans were treated to seeing a couple of the new songs live. MONUMENTS were very well received by the audience; all too often people treat opening bands with thinly veiled scepticism, maintaining a safe distance from the stage. Not so with MONUMENTS' show: they had the audience captivated from the very beginning. One of the highlights came towards the end of the show, when vocalist Chris Barretto got the entire audience to kneel during the beginning of the penultimate song, before exploding into the air as the song reached its peak, which needless to say spurred a circle pit in turn. What also stood out was when Chris took the camera from someone who was recording the performance, and got some up-close-and-personal footage of the rest of the band playing, before returning the camera to the ecstatic fan. Overall, MONUMENTS put on a fun and energetic show, with a veritable swarm of people encircling the band after their set to congratulate them on such a good show.


Picking up where MONUMENTS left off was PROTEST THE HERO. Regaling the audience with a tale of how they had gotten horribly drunk after their show in Belgium and had accidentally left one of their band members passed out in a forest there, PROTEST THE HERO engaged their audience with more than just their music. I unfortunately only caught the tail-end of PROTEST THE HERO's set, as I had been doing an interview with the vocalist of MONUMENTS; however, the bit that I did catch was very impressive, and they definitely counted as one of the highlights of the night. The music was fun, energetic, intricate, and good, and the audience clearly loved it! One of the most outstanding aspects of their performance was the vocalist's style: with a vocal range that soared effortlessly between an almost feminine clean vocal style to that more commonly associated with the Core scene, with familiar melodies being incorporated into the show, especially in the intro, PROTEST THE HERO's music was much more progressive and melody-driven than the remaining bands of the evening.

1. Clarity
2. Bone Marrow
3. Underbite
4. Hair-Trigger
5. Bloodmeat
6. Mist
7. Bury the Hatchet
8. The Dissentience
9. C'est la Vie
10. Sex Tapes
11. Blindfolds Aside


WE CAME AS ROMANS were the penultimate band of the evening. Starting of their set 10 minutes late, and scrapping one of their songs due to difficulties with the console, their set was somewhat shorter than fans would have like. Starting off with the track "Cure for the Itch" by LINKIN PARK, WE CAME AS ROMANS launched into their shortened set. Despite this and the extremely bad feedback during their first song, the crowd soon nevertheless got fully into the swing of things. With it being the birthday of vocalist David Stephens, one of the crowd members had thoughtfully brought along a cardboard placard, wishing David a happy birthday. When that failed to get his attention, the crowd started singing "Happy Birthday" in between songs. All in all, WE CAME AS ROMANS put on a good set that had the crowd going absolutely wild.

1. Cure for the Itch (Linkin Park)
2. Ghosts
3. Fade Away
4. Mis//Understanding
5. Never Let Me Go
6. Glad You Came (The Wanted cover)
7. Roads That Don't End and Views That Never Cease
8. Present, Future, and Past
9. A Moment
10. To Plant a Seed
11. Hope


At long last it was time for the headliners of the night: EMMURE. I had never seen the band live, but knowing what a following they have, I was interested to see what they were all about. And honestly, I found them somewhat disappointing: their songs were repetitive and dull, with nothing unique about them. Granted, EMMURE has a lot of energy, and this dynamic is rather infections: the beat drives into your feet and you just want to jump along. However, at a closer listen, all that their songs really are is a frantic and unvaried tempo mixed with breakdowns. Several people I talked to during and after the show were of a similar opinion, some even going as far as saying that they couldn't distinguish one song from the next. Nevertheless, EMMURE's Munich fan base seemed to enjoy the show, and I guess that's what counts.

1. Bring a Gun to School
2. Nemesis
3. N.I.A. (News in Arizona)
4. Sunday Bacon
5. I Thought You Met Telly and Turned Me Into Casper
6. 4 Poisons 3 Words
7. R2Deepthroat
8. E
9. Drug Dealer Friend
10. Dogs Get Put Down
11. MDMA
12. 10 Signs You Should Leave
13. When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong
14. Solar Flare Homicide
15. Children of Cybertron

My thanks go to Thomas Gottschalt for doing the photography of the PROTEST THE HERO set for me whilst I interviewed MONUMENTS.


Interview – Chris Barretto (Monuments)


After the excellent performance put on by MONUMENTS in Munich on Monday night, I got the opportunity to speak to Chris Barretto, their vocalist. We had an interesting talk, covering a variety of topics from touring schedules, to his experiences as the newest member of the band, to an in depth look at everything you might want to know about the story behind the new album "The Amanuensis".

How has the tour been so far?

It's been great! It's been really cool to tour with PROTEST (THE HERO) as they are extremely good! It has been a challenge and an inspiration how they are so great every night; it has been good to see that and to live up to that standard.

MONUMENTS have an extremely punishing touring schedule lined up, with barely a day off until the end of August.

Punishing is a good word! There's also stuff that hasn't been announced yet, so we have a long rest of the year ahead of us. It's going to be our first time in America, so that is kind of a big deal for the band. We'll be going on the road with GLASS CLOUDS and SCALE THE SUMMIT, and we're just hoping it's going to be a good reception, seeing as it's going to be our first time there. We're looking forward to it a lot!

How are you all managing such a demanding touring schedule? Do you have really flexible jobs, or is the band your main source of income?

This is our main thing; as far as income goes, we're pretty fucking broke. But that's the trade-off. Either you do what you love or you sit behind a fucking desk or work at a bar, as was my case. You can make all the money and have an apartment, but it's still not this. Sacrifices are made, but it's worth it. We'll be giving lessons and do session work and stuff; whatever we've got to do through music to keep alive in terms of finances. But as far as day-jobs go, that's not something that is part of our lives. We don't even have the time for that, truth be told. We'd get fired within a week because we're always gone.

You've been in a band for a year now. How has the experience been?

It's been super great! So much fun on-stage, so much fun off-stage! We made a record together that I'm very proud of. We did it in a short time, but I think it came together great, given the small amount of time that we had. And it's been really fun sharing the music with people, now that it's out, at least in Europe.

It must have also been interesting taking lessons from Melissa Cross!

She's quite the friend actually. She's a funky old lady, and I love her! She has definitely helped me out over the years, and has shown me some great stuff. I still do the warm-ups to this day, at least 45 minutes to an hour every day, her exercises and some other exercises included, and it's part of who I am as a musician and a singer. I wish she could be here to see it, because she'd probably be telling me every single thing that I'm doing wrong!

And how do people react when you occasionally play saxophone during live shows?

They love it! They fucking love it! It's amazing! The fun thing about our style of music is that people definitely come with a little bit more open ears. Maybe it's just the times, or maybe Metal in and of itself has evolved and grown a little bit. Whatever it is, people are appreciating it and that's all that matters to me.

Will this be kept as a live performance thing, or are there plans to incorporate the saxophone on one of your records?

We were going to do it on this past album, but we decided not to. First of all, there wasn't really enough time, and secondly, this is still the MONUMENTS thing, let's not stray too far from that yet. There are still people from the older school of MONUMENTS, and we didn't want to interject so much change so fast. Although it is very much a part of our live set, especially when we have more time. It will definitely be a thing of the future for sure!

What was it like joining the band and being launched straight into doing a new album, especially under the time constraint?

I love that: I thrive under pressure! When you have a gun to my head, I'm going to do it, and I'm going to perform. I'm no stranger to stepping into shoes, or to joining something that has already been established. "Easy" might be a simple way of putting it; it's definitely not that, but it was more comfortable than I would expect.

How did the recording process go?

We had about 7 month to do everything: from writing to recording to mastering to printing, everything. So that was hard. I definitely know that there are things we would have done differently, little tweaks here and there. I suppose it is the perfectionist or the musician thing in all of us. But for the small amount of time that we had, I think we did a very good job, and I'm really proud of the work. It was crazy in the studio at times, it was stressful, it was awesome, it was like "Oh my god, what the fuck are we doing?" It was really a lot of everything, but once it was finally done, it was such a weight off our shoulders to be like, wow, we actually did this!

Why was the song "Saga City" almost scrapped?

Oh my god! "Saga City" was the hardest one to put together in terms of the arrangement. We went through so many emails and different versions of how the song should be formatted, to the point where I was like "This is too much, I don't think this is going to work!" But then "Saga City" is what spawned the entire record. Once I had the melody for it, it almost wrote itself. It also spawned the story that I wrote for the record. If it wasn't for "Saga City", the whole record wouldn't be what it is today. So what started out as the worst things in the world ended up being one of the best things ever, which is weird, because it always goes like that. And it's got finger-snaps and four-part harmonies in the beginning: that doesn't happen in Metal! Except until now.

Do you have a favourite song off the album?

I think it would be "Garden of Sankhara", only because there is so much singing on it. I've never done that before, and it's a really funky tune. It's a lot of fun, and I like the way that Browne constructed the song, I like the flow of the beat, I love the general feel of it, and I really love the vocals that I wrote for it. It's really fun for me, and it has this mystical vibe.

Seeing as you're the newest member of the band, you have more of an outsider perspective on how the new album compares to older MONUMENTS music. How would you describe the two?

I honestly think it's more mature. That word gets used a lot, but it's true. Browne's writing on this record has been very relaxed to the point where he's so comfortable with just laying back as opposed to "Gnosis", which was very in-you-face musically, which is fine, but I think the groove is even deeper now, because there are things that are not so direct. You have to concentrate a little bit more. Some things hit you right in the face, and other things you just get lost in. Everyone's moved forward in terms of the sound; this isn't "Gnosis Part 2". This new direction fits us very much musically in that it's very honest. Perhaps more so than in the past.

The title "The Amanuensis", is that taken from the dictionary definition, or is it a Cloud Atlas reference?

A little bit of both: it was inspired by Cloud Atlas in a way, but an amanuensis is a scribe, someone who dictates what somebody else has said or written. And in context to our record, I imagine the listener to be the amanuensis, dictating experientially the story that is taking place. So you're just as much a part of the story as any of the characters I've written about.

Speaking of characters, what is the story behind the whole album?

The album is a play on a whole bunch of things. One of the things we were very much interested in when we were coming up with concepts is Eastern mysticism. But I didn't want to do something like do a search on Wikipedia and then try to write cool stuff about that. I'm into story-telling and communicating something that's a little bit deeper than just a bunch of facts. So the Samsara wheel was a big inspiration because it was this cyclical thing that intuitively felt good to all of us. I turned it into a story where the two main characters are called Sam and Sara. The record follows the journey of Sam, a classic hero who goes through all these trials and tribulations to realise his destiny. Sara is his female counterpart, and they're kind of the yin and yang of their universe. She comes to him at certain pivotal points that help him reach his destination and helps him become who he is at the end. He becomes the destroyer, but realises he's supposed to be the creator. Saga City is this place built on stories, and there's a book there that tells the truth, and that's what the story is based on. This book spawns this whole path of survival that Sam has to take. He has to leave in the beginning, that's "Origin of Escape" and then he goes across this great ocean, which is "Atlas", to find this mystic who has this garden, which is "Garden of Sankara", and once he gets to the end of the garden, he meets this alchemist, and "The Alchemist" teaches him about what he's meant to be and tells him about his destiny. He then goes back, but he gets lost, and then "Quasimodo" helps him find his way back home. Then he gets back, and "Saga City" reveals the back-story of how him and Sara grew up together, and how they were star-crossed, and she was his true love, and all these terrible things that happened in his absence: Sara was killed, his father was killed, because they're influence by this evil tyrant who rules over Saga City, and who controls demons. So that leads you to "Jjin" where Sam returns to the place where he first found the book, and the demon lives there now. And the alchemist tells him not to let the demon speak, which is actually the lyrics "And the silence speaks, all these secrets come undone" which is alluding to how when the demon speaks, he physically and mentally changes the vibration of space and time, and his words are directly influencing you and Sam falls prey to the power of the demon. But he doesn't realise how he's the most powerful guy in all of the universe, and so they take him back to that tyrant guy, and they try to control him, but he becomes too powerful, he becomes the destroyer, this god of chaos outside of good and evil, and he destroys everything. But then Sara comes back to him, that's that meditation song at the end, "Samsara", and she reveals to him that he's actually not the destroyer, he's supposed to be the creator, and she brings the book back after death, and there're these pages that were missing when they were kids, but now they're there, so they read it together one more time, and she gives him a kiss and she evaporates into the air. Sam uses himself and becomes the creator. That's the only way he can do it, if he chooses it. He sacrifices his physical being and his spiritual power, and uses all of that to recreate Saga City. There's a big flash after he does that, and he wakes up as a child. And it's after the first time that he hears this song that the book admits that it's living itself, and it lets out this frequency that only the chosen one can hear, and so he has that dream all the time when he's a kid. Then one night he finally hears it outside of his head, he hears it like we're talking now. And after he does this whole creator thing, there's so much energy that it puts out, and it's like a time loop that rips itself and it falls back onto that one point of space and time because his dream is so powerful. And so the whole story is a cycle that loops on itself, so that's the homage to the Samsara thing, and Saga City is a play on the word sagacity. So there are all these little things that tie it together and make it this epic tale.

That sounds fascinating!

Thank you! It was a lot of fun to write.

Are there plans for music videos? I can imagine that story would make an epic video!

I want to do the greatest video ever, but it just costs a lot of money.

Haha, you could make a full-length feature movie with that story line!

Ah, if I could get Peter Jackson to direct it, it would be fucking sick! I know we'll do something, but to what extent, that I'm not sure of.

My final question: Your music is often described as thought-provoking. Is making people think the goal in itself, or is there a message that you try to promote? And if so, what would that message be?

The message is within the context of the story, certainly. That's the thing about messages: it's one thing to be preachy and tell people that "that is that and this is this". There have been some great messengers throughout time, but that's not my style. The best way that messages are conveyed and received, I think, is through stories. And so the message behind this story is courage; strength to persevere through the darkest of times when you think you've hit that place where you just can't make it out of, you go a little bit deeper to find yourself and not give into that darkness; to be the best version of yourself, and to choose that at all costs; and to do whatever you have to do to make this world better, because it starts with you. If you're better, you have a better shot at making everything else better. And so through that story, those are the themes. It's not so much preachy as it is things that I believe, and if you're with that, that's great.

Thank you very much, it's been fascinating talking to you!

You're very welcome Erika, I appreciate that!

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