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Monarch: Omens

Monarch is an absolutely wonderful French band that combines several heavy metal genres, including drone, sludge, black metal, and down-tempo. I mention all these genres because Monarch's overall sound cannot be characterized simply by any one name. Their sound is slow, their chord changes spare, their sound huge. Omens is the kind of recording one can listen to at either a loud or a soft volume and find the sound textures consistently rich and engaging. I listened to this album 3 or 4 times, in my car, at home, at work, and found myself constantly drawn to its sludgy pacing and its droning low end. Like the Gothic short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Omens largely works to establish atmosphere, to leave listeners in the thrall of certain dramatic effects. Listen to the way "Black Becomes the Sun" employs Emilie's capacity for creating lovely wordless vocals that rise above the droning of the guitar, bass, and drums. At other times, Emilie's voice is more of a gut-wrenching scream, almost the sound of someone in terrible emotional or physical agony. The resulting blend of sounds made me wonder whether this album is something like a meditation on the possibility of beauty in an often ugly world. I'm probably overstepping the interpretive limits here, but I found the way this band moves between the beautiful and the rasping to be both mesmerizing and provocative.

Listening to Monarch readily brings to mind the mood and tone of Black Sabbath. This is appropriate, considering that Monarch's myspace page actually lists Black Sabbath twice on their list of musical influences, the second time stressing the point that this is a band committed to perpetuating a sound that millions of listeners hold dear. Indeed, their 2010 release Sabbat Noir, is nothing less than a musical homage to the original godfathers of heavy metal. Omens is less overtly connected to Black Sabbath in name, but I doubt listeners will miss the continuing impact of Iommi and company on this terrific band.

Listeners will quickly realize that Omens only has three tracks. For listeners unfamiliar with drone-style heavy metal, this small number of tracks may be surprising. The point of this style of music is to prolong the notes, to draw out their textures and possibilities without feeling obliged to explore the restlessness of rapid chord changes, musical counterpoint, and elaborate harmonies. In classical music, such experimentation has come to be called minimalism. It began as a revolt against the heavily esoteric atonal music of the mid-twentieth century. The result was an inspiring body of music that reclaimed the potential of doing more with less, of developing rhythmic, almost meditative sounds that were more visceral than anything else. Now that these musical influences are finding their way into heavy metal, the sound is gaining more and more fans. Monarch captures the essence of this music beautifully. With the exception of "Transylvanian Incantations," (also the weakest track), the works on this recording are long, slow, developments of what a solid metal band can do with fascinating sounds.


Track Listing:
1. Blood Seeress
2. Transylvanian Incantations
3. Black Becomes the Sun

Added: January 29th 2012
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Score:
Related Link: Band MySpace Page
Hits: 1696
Language: english

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