|The new Monarch album is a brilliant, but short piece of twisted Extreme Doom.
After discovering Monarch a short while ago, I had a look at our reviews section to see what my colleagues had to say about this great band, only to find that they have not been covered on our site at all up to now. I immediately felt that something had to be done about this, so upon re-listening to their new album Omens, I soon came to the decision to review it. The French band plays what could best be described as twisted and psychedelic Extreme Doom. It is tempting to try and identify elements and influences from various subgenres, most notably Funeral and Drone, but at the end of the day this would not take us anywhere and could hardly do justice to the music.
The almost 20 minute long ”Black Becomes the Sun” is certainly the most interesting and intense composition of the album and serves best to illustrate the style. It starts off with a crawling riff of downtuned and extremely distorted guitars, perfectly accompanied by minimalist and punchy drumming. Details of the guitar lines are constantly changing, oscillating between crushing power chords and more melodic lines while maintaining the basic harmonic structure. It is these nuances which, if absorbed actively and in the right mood, develop a stunning emotional depth and hypnotic undertow and thus turn the song into a very touching piece of music. Behind the surface of overwhelming heaviness I detect a subtlety and fragility here which is very rare in Extreme Doom. As if that weren’t enough, detached sounding female chants soar above the instrumentation to create a truly mournful atmosphere. Not ‘mournful’ in the mellow and romanticised way, mind you: There is not the slightest trace of Gothic Doom to be heard, and fans of said genre will most likely find this album far too extreme and bleak. What is more, Emilie Bresson (vocals/electronics) does not shy away from shouting and screaming her very soul out in the second half of the song and processing her vocals electronically to astonishing effect, adding to the recognisable trademark sound of the band. This darker second half of the song is connected to the first one through a fascinating interlude with frenzied drum fills and scattered power chords; towards the end, it elegantly leads back over to the opening theme – a truly magnificent arrangement! Vague synth and guitar effects in the background add to the psychedelic feel of the music. Bloody Panda are a band which comes to mind as a possible comparison, but Monarch’s music is less overtly experimental, the arrangements are more basic and stripped down, one might even say: doomier in essence.
After these lengthy and enthusiastic descriptions, one major point of criticism remains: The album is too short. Consisting of only two songs (the second track being more of a short Ambient soundscape), it leaves you somewhat unsatisfied and wanting to hear more. But then again, this further emphasises the quality of the material, which is nothing short of impressive. Those who have been following Monarch before will not regret buying this album. On the other hand, if you enjoy Extreme Doom with psychedelic touches and are not familiar with the band yet, Omens is a good point to start.
Oh, by the way: Why is it that nowadays two out of three albums (including this one) are released in some fancy and inconvenient sleeve format or as digipacks which fall apart from just looking at them? Why can’t bands and labels just stick to the trusty old jewelcase? Surely I am not the only music fan who is annoyed by this pointless trend of the contemporary music industry. But I have to cut this band some slack: At least their release still fits into the CD rack (you can’t even rely on this anymore these days).
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1. Blood Seeress
2. Transylvanian Incantations
3. Black Becomes the Sun
Duration : Approx. 35 minutes
Visit the Monarch bandpage.