These days, you don’t get many bands who sound quite as ominous or death-defying as France’s Monarch. Twelve years has seen the band slowly evolve their core sound into a monstrous, mind-numbing entity of darkness and menace, yet it was really with 2012’s “Omens” that Monarch’s sludgy, ambient and depressive music was appreciated. Now with their new album, the cleverly titled “Sabbracadaver”, Monarch seem ready to take on music of a darker albeit much more melancholic note than ever before.
“Sabbracadaver” will leave some of you quite shocked when you realize that there are only three songs, all of which exceeding the ten-minute mark. The band take their time to erupt to enigmatic outros which make songs like visceral opener “Pentagrammes” all the more haunting to the listener, hours after the song has been heard for the first time. The musicianship throughout is for the most part developed via a sludgy, ambient rhythm section and made gradually heavier by the distorted, raw guitar tones and concrete drum rhythms, whilst at the same time retaining the all-important atmosphere which itself wouldn’t sound out of place on a silent B-Horror film. Indeed, the eeriness of the instrumental performance, especially on closer “Mortes” , continually makes even the happiest of listeners think of darker times, and if it wasn’t for the soul-wrenching bass hacking its way through all forty-six minutes of “Sabbracadaver”‘s runtime, it would be much less interesting.
What really drags you down to the lowest pits of hell however, is those horrific (in a good way) and depressing vocals, ranging from sombre screams to beautifully harmonic cleans. The former style seems to be the more prominent of the two, and that’s simply because it is louder in the mix. The harsh vocal tones scream through the recording throughout “Pentagrammes” and its shorter successor “Louves”, but what really makes Monarch stand out from the drone/doom crowd is the fluent transition between the two vocal styles. Whilst the cleaner, more harmonic vocal range does often seem muddied and buried under the overwhelmingly heavy musicianship, closer listens will reveal the dulcet harmonies as outstanding aspects of Monarch’s well-rehearsed musical formula.
“Sabbracadaver” may only appeal to a select audience, but it does a good job of standing out from the crowd too. Whilst Monarch seem to be sticking to a sub-genre which doesn’t usually get noticed in the mainstream, they have still crafted one of the eerie, more ominous and definitely darkest recordings of 2014. The album crumbles with heaviness and ambiance in equal measures, and so will the aural tolerance of whoever listens to it for more than a few hours. The new album thus proves Monarch to be an ever-promising group in the drone/doom metal circuit, and rightly so.