Monarch’s ‘Omens’ proves that beauty, dreaminess belong at doom’s table

Doom metal can be a beautiful medium. That probably sounds like a weird statement if read by an outsider with no knowledge of the genre, and that’s understandable. How can something awash in darkness be lovely? But once you get to know the music, its nuances and what it tries to express, you’ll be able to comprehend all of this.

I find my heart can flutter with Bloody Panda’s shocking drone, my mind can soar on the riffs of the mighty Sunn 0))) and I can be moved by the tales and sorrow of Aldebaran. Another band of that ilk that always made me see the beauty of doom is French band Monarch, who have been pretty damn prolific the past seven years, putting out six full-length efforts, all of which belong in your catalog. Emilie Bresson, who live goes from handling vocals to commandeering some of the band’s other noisy elements, is the reason this band is so special, and her approach to her craft also amplifies the allure of the band. Her banshee, hellish shrieks penetrate your soul, making like she’s scooping emotions from her cavity with a spoon and spreading the bloody results across the walls. But when she goes clean, she’s damn-near angelic, which sounds paradoxical but really isn’t.

As for the rest of the band, Shiran Kaidine (also of Year of No Light) takes cares of the mammoth buzz, guitar squall and muddy riffage, that can make you feel like you’re drowning and gasping for life in a tar pit, while bassist MicHell Bidegain and new drummer Rob Shaffer (he pounds the kit for Dark Castle as well) keep the low end crawling on its belly, rumbling all the way. When it’s all put together, Monarch’s music can sound ceremonial and ritualistic, and if you get caught up in what they do, you can find yourself captured and on your way to a spiritual self-examination that could produce results you don’t expect. You’ll go really deep into the darkness, no doubt, but as noted, you won’t believe how gorgeous the journey can be.

The band’s new record “Omens” has an interesting story. The three tracks were recorded in four different locations with four different producers (Hironori Ochi in Japan; Neil Thomason in Australia; Matt Cartman in Montreal; Sanford Parker in Chicago), so you have lots of cooks in lots of kitchens. But while you might expect an emotional disconnect or some choppiness from so much collaboration, the record is surprisingly smooth. The songs gel easily and blend together really well, resulting in a cohesive, moving experience.

The album is built by three songs, which is not a surprise since their efforts tend to have small track counts that go the epic route. This is no different, as the record is bookended by long tracks that are broken up by a haunting, nightmarish interlude “Transylvanian Incantations.” The album opens up with “Blood Seeress,” a track that sets its own stage with cascades of noise and gong crashes. Bresson then lets loose with her wails and screams that make it sound like she’s exorcising her own demons. The song simmers and burns, rises and falls, and eventually washes out with wordless singing, causing it to feel like the whole thing is fading into the night. “Black Becomes the Sun” is one of my favorite Monarch tracks ever, as Bresson goes cleaner and sings high and radiantly, showing a different side to herself. Eventually gushing drone bubbles over, some rollicking drums rolls just go off (Shaffer is awesome on this cut) and Bresson’s demonic wails take over and bring the song to its crushing conclusion. This cut’s just a killer, and the first time I heard this nearly 20-minute song, I had to immediately go back and listen again. It’s just an awesome display.

I’m hoping for this record Monarch will reach the States again because I’d love to hear these new songs live. It also would be nice, with doom metal at such an apex right now, for this band to get the notoriety they deserve. Monarch’s machinery seems to be constantly in motion, and they just get better with each release. And obviously Bresson’s gift as a singer and figure in front of this band makes this group worth investing your attention. Monarch is a unique and awesome force that will put a hole in your chest where your heart was. That may sound painful and all, but you’ll enjoy every moment of it.

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