Formed in 2002 in Bayonne, Monarch are one of France's heaviest musical highlights. Monarch produce what could be described as a cavernous wall of sound that sounds like it comes straight from the cthonic depths of Tartarus itself, but yet not without an element of beauty and occasional serenity. Fronted by leading lady Emilie Bresson, Monarch are a five-piece that have seven previous albums to their name. “Never Forever” follows 2014's excellent “Sabbracadaver”.
Much like a traditional French lunch break, things with Monarch are taken at a gentle pace. Monarch like their music low and hypnotically slow, with many of the tracks on “Never Forever” lasting a good fifteen minutes plus. Album opener “Of Night, With Knives” start us of with an epic slab of drone-doom that pulsates with ethereal darkness, topped off with Emillie's haunting vocals that have the feel of a tortured cry of anguish from somewhere deep below. The glacial pace of this track creates a palpable sense of tension and dread, with a palette as black as night, a funerary dirge full of melancholic tones.
“Song To The Void” gives us a brief, five minute interlude with its hypnotic rhythms, monotone guitars and gentle vocal notes. A beautiful exercise in musical minimalism. “Cadaverine” follows up with its bittersweet melodies that are somewhat reminiscent of My Dying Bride at their best. This song is relentlessly malevolent and deeply eerier, at some points pure cacophony. In short, it's what Monarch do best, and they have mastered their art. By the time the full seventeen minutes of forty-eight seconds have passed, you will feel utterly entrapped in its dark chasm of audial negativity.
Diamant Noir is one of the mellower tracks on “Never Forever”, bringing things down just a notch or two before the epic, crushing finale - “Lilith”. “Lilith” begins gently, before descending further and further into madness towards the mid-section, before coming up for air just before it reaches its full twenty minutes.
“Never Forever” is yet another strong album from this French quintet. This album is a relentless, dark, despairing, yet cathartic and wonderfully crafted piece that takes drone-doom to the very bottom of the cavernous musical depths, then lifts you out again just as were beginning to forget what the light looked like, before finally coming out the other side feeling all the better for the experience. With “Never Forever”, Monarch have undoubtedly been crowned the kings (and queen) of European drone-doom metal.
Never Forever is released September 22nd through Profound Lore Records