French drone masters Monarch! inject more atmosphere, melody into sorrowful ‘Never Forever’

Doom is mostly burly and ugly, a form of music that allows the creepiest and grimiest elements to bleed to the surface. Yet, not every corner of it is that way, and with some digging into other sections of terrain, one can find beauty, elegance, and even vulnerability.

French drone crushers Monarch! have been carving their own path through doom and drone for 15 years now, putting a unique spin on the sounds and crafting a formula very much their own. They’ve taken their time building their name and live reputation, as well as putting out some of the most thought-provoking music in all extreme music, the latest being their eighth full-length record “Never Forever.” On this album, the follow-up to 2014’s “Sabbracadaver,” Monarch! push their agenda even further into the atmosphere. While there are undoubtedly scathing and heavy fits of destruction on this five-track behemoth, there also are some of the band’s more reflective, pained moments. We hear even more melody worked through the record, and vocalist Emilie Bresson pushes her singing to new levels. She still unleashes scathing and chest-caving screams, but she also adds dream-state singing and calling to the mix, making the band’s music even more haunting and captivating.

“Of Night, With Knives” is the 15:03 opener, a track that dumps buckets of drone as Bresson whispers amid the haze. The drubbing then begins, as Bresson speaks in French over the din, and then the song dissolves into eerie chants. The drums reawaken out of that, as dreamy singing spreads, the pace surges for a spell, and then things settle into clean calling and a blitz of sound. “Song to the Void” has noise seeping through the seams, while drums begin knocking, and an ouroboric melody spreads out and attaches the front of the song to the back. Bresson’s transmissions sound like messages from the void, as she observes, “When the stars are falling,” which is fitting as it feels like what the song actually is depicting. Static glaze builds, as the song simmers and floats off into outer space.

“Cadaverine” has a smashing open, as guitars wail, and the singing floats into Bresson’s brutal growls. The band hits a nice bit of riffing that gets your blood flowing, while wrenching growls and mournful melodies combine and drizzle blackness. Sounds slice, and the drone boils, leading to feedback crushing souls, wild cries decimating, and the noise smearing out. “Diamant Noir” has a serene start, as Bresson speaks over the rising tide, and powerful melodies that remind of Pallbearer unfurl and swallow you whole. Bresson delivers softer singing, while the soloing is emotive and deep, and that outpouring continues as the passion hits a high mark and eventually dies in agony. Closer “Lilith” runs a second short of 20 minutes, and it’s a stunner. The track slowly comes to life, as keys bleed, and the sound starts its march. The plot moves slowly but steadily, as it swims in somber waters, and Bresson trades off from quiet singing to wild howls. Anguished wails bruise the skin, as the doom hammers drop heavily and steadily, and Bresson whispers amid the drone storm. The playing is funereal and scathing, while Bresson thrashes over the misery, with the track eventually fading into nothingness.

Monarch! long have been one of doom’s most interesting, captivating bands, and they further solidify that on “Never Forever.” This record proves that this band isn’t satisfied simply adding new layers of hurt on an already impressive stack of accomplishments. They’re still looking for new creative avenues and ways to set your heart and soul afire.

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