MONARCH!, if for nothing else, is consistent with its latest album, ďOmensĒ. Amongst all their output since forming in 2003, five long-players dominate their discography by using fundamentally the same sound throughout. On this sixth album, they hone their Drone into their best effort to date.
These French fatalists spare no screech in its Doom dreamscapes. DARK CASTLE drummer and newest member, American Rob Shaffer, batters some of the gall out of the Gaul outfit, but succumbs to the anoxia that MONARCH! achieves through the strangulation of hope by the weight of its keening dread. Itís similar to falling into a lukewarm tar pit and sinking to the bottom.
MONARCH! uses minimalism, and a lot of it, to create an uncomfortable atmosphere. It's a world barely worth visiting, let alone enduring, but a creepy allure is conjured up by guitarist Shiran Kaidine's relentless wail and vocalist Emilie Breeson's wondershrieks. Burnished with their newly polished focus, a 12 minute-plus windstorm like "Blood Seeress" plods on and on but also very slowly rotates the kaleidoscope between death-shroud black and nightmarish gray. Itís some weird sin that works its way into the center of the brain and takes up residence, as if MONARCH! has tapped into the fundamental frequencies that spark between nerve-endings.
Breeson's vocals are a caviar of caterwauling, an acquired taste for many or a distasteful blight for some. Those willing to take the chromatic challenge of this French Doom Metal diva, may find richness in the passionate abuse of her vocal chords. She shimmies and she strolls down every twisting wooded path, balling her fists and parting the gloom with her banshee cries. As if birthing a demon-child, she howls and screams and commits perverse crimes against whatever microphone she crushes in her grip. Even with the fly-ins of ambient noise, she alone rakes her beastly talons across the faces of the three tracks that infest "Omens". "Blood Seeress," "Transylvanian Incantations." and "Black Becomes The Sun." "Omens" is a despairing and spare 35 minutes, when a whisper becomes a scream and then dissolves into silence.
MONARCH!'s main men on "Omens" skillfully weave a throbbing tapestry behind Breeson. Recorded in different studios in differing locations with dissimilar producers, "Omens" could have become a disjointed product of incoherence, yet the instrumentalists miraculously keep it together to produce a coherent package of disembodied angst. Perhaps it is due to the purported concept behind the album, that is a moody commiseration of a tortured woman as she travels through unholy darkness, turns left at the evil witch picnic and heads into an ever-so-slightly brighter gloom.
Ultimately, if cathartic Sludge-Doom filtered through alien musical sensibility has appeal, in the same way that pressing a thumb deep into a bruise and then releasing it has its appeal, MONARCH!'s "Omens" possesses sublime value. It is art. It is also as metallic as CORRUPTED, KHANATE and NATTFOG, even if it tiptoes along the extreme edge of the definition of Metal itself.
(Online June 15, 2012)