It seems that France has quite the underground sludge/doom scene, if Love Sex Machine and Monarch are anything to go by. Formed in 2002, Monarch has distinguished themselves in the world of doom with crushing riffs, alternately howling and mournful female vocals, an apocalyptic sense of dread, and a love of all things Hello Kitty.* While they don’t do anything particularly new on Omens that hasn’t been done already on 2005’s 666 or any of the previous myriad doom records enshrined in the Halls of Glory, what Monarch does is executed with an expert sense of calculating maximum dread. Comparisons can easily be made to the early works of Boris and Godflesh, the sonic asphyxiations of Sunn O))), or the apocalyptic works of labelmates The Body. They’re perfectly aware that they’re indebted to more artists than they can care to count, and Monarch does a good job of wearing their influences on their sleeve and showing that they’re standing on the shoulders of giants while still putting their own spin on a formula that’s already been tapped countless times before. Sounding distinctive is no easy feat in the world of doom, but having excellent riffs and a female vocalist certainly helps.
Opener “Blood Seeress” does an excellent job of typifying Monarch‘s style, as Emilie Bresson’s anguished howl rises above a monstrous riff that calls to mind drone classic Absolutego – oh yes, it’s that good. Of particular praise is the drumming, performed more than admirably by Rob Shaffer of Dark Castle, a master of sparse compliments to aural gloom. The ambient interlude of “Transylvanian Incantations” serves well to clear the air and let the listener breathe before the full-on descent to the bottom of the ocean on monolithic closer “Black Becomes The Sun,” where a mournful dirge is complemented by Besson’s change to clean singing in the first half of the song. The result is something possessed of a haunting beauty rarely seen in the more sludgy corners of doom, but it regresses halfway through to the same structure and themes displayed in the first track. It’s a good thing that this album only has three colossal tracks on it; by the end of the third, you can already see that Monarch is beginning to run out of ideas. Oh, but what good ideas they are, though!
As far as doom metal goes, this is certainly a pretty solid release. It does tend to drag near the end of the two longer tracks, but what Monarch lacks in innovation they make up for in atmosphere and the little things – a riff may take a different turn from the one you were expecting, or the drum pattern might be switched up in just the right way to keep your interest piqued. Monarch proves that you don’t need to spin something from wholecloth and create something entirely new and different in order to make a successful record, you just need to do a solid and unique take on everything that’s come before.
Label: At A Loss Recordings
Release Date: February 28th, 2012