Friday, July 6, 2012

gazing into the abyss : MONARCH! "Omens"

MONARCH "Omens" (At A Loss Recordings )

I've been following Monarch for years, around the time when their first album '666' was released. I've seen the band plays in many curious places, from squatts to pubs and even twice in a reamenaged cellar! And every time I've been crushed by the intensity of their live prestations. But while great, their records were still missing some little thing that would have pushed the band beyond being just another of those ultra-heavy Sludge/Drone/Doom outfit wanting to do nothing more than to create the VIBE. All this changed around 2007, when Monarch released their split-album with The Grey Daturas : from now on, Monarch was including some Black Metal elements in their music, mostly crunchy riffs like what Darkthrone was doing back in the mid-90's.

They also experimented a bit more with the vocals, sweet Emilie Eurogirl starting to do something more than just sick screams (which, incidentally, she does well better than many corpse-painted male vocalists). This started when she was part of the very short-lived electronic act (only one gig in 2008, opening for Boris) Sugar Blood Kult, with Sunshine Parker and fellow Monarch member MicHell : this is during this performance that we discovered that Emilie was also capable of doing some dreamy kind of singing, something that then took a place on the 'Mer Morte' album in 2008. And from this album on, Monarch have started to change and to bring into their music something more. Which finally bring us to their 2012 release, 'Omens'.
In some ways, 'Omens' can be seen as the final transformation of the old Monarch into something more mature. Sure, you won't be disappointed in the fact that there is still here that ominous dark vibe for which the band has been known. But the idea to bring elements of Black Metal inside the Doom that is Monarch has never been so well done. In some ways, 'Omens' sounds like the album that Black Sabbath would have recorded if they had been born in Bergen and had started recording music in 1992. This is dark and brooding ritualistic music, bringing to mind vivid images of black masses in forgotten crypts and lone witches performing unholy rituals in the deepest parts of a shunned forest. The three songs are entwined so much that you could really think you're listening to the three different parts of a single track.

But more than the crunchy riffs and the crumbling mausoleum atmosphere, what sets apart 'Omens' from the previous Monarch releases is the huge step forward taken by Emilie's voice : now, she actually sings, and she does it with style, being fully interpreting the personna of each track. She is indeed the 'Blood Seeress' of the first song, peering into a bowl of freshly drawn red liquid of life to discover the secrets of the universe, she is mumbling the 'Transylvanian Incantations' and through her dirge then the sun becomes black...The powerful ritual machine that is Monarch live has been able to retranscript that live vibe fully into an album. 'Omens' isn't influenced by Khanate or whatever other band you can think of, it's finally the album that'll put Monarch as the leaders of their genre. And considering the high quality of this release, they bloody deserve it.

by Laurent Lignon

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