Sludgy drone seems to be everywhere at the moment, and with bands such as Old Man Gloom making a reappearance on the scene, the time for noise-ridden filth to permeate the subconscious is now. France’s Monarch are no strangers to the wastelands of sludge and have been incredibly prolific in what has been a fairly short career thus far. Starting out in 2002 the quartet has consistently released high calibre recordings and “Omens” is the latest in a long line of terrifying works.
Monarch are unapologetic in their harsh approach and this is not music for the faint of heart. Cavernous and mighty bass strikes hit right where it hurts when “Blood Seeress” kicks in. Emilie Bresson’s disturbingly overwrought vocal plays off against slow and doomy drum lines whilst taking on an horrific edge; her range flows from screams of pain and howls of despair to the calm and evocative cleanliness of her performance on “Black Becomes The Sun.” The stark disparity between these two tracks lies in the venomous looming of something unknown. “Blood Seeress” is terrifically heavy and wears its poison on its proverbial sleeve. “Black Becomes The Sun” is an entirely different beast and the danger hidden within the depths of this track is as dreadful as any of the more “obvious” moments of “Omens”.
Separating these two titanic tracks is the desperately haunting “Transylvanian Incantations.” Foregoing the trend of being a ten minute plus behemoth, this is a lull in between in the storms and serves to break the intensity of “Omens” with an unexpected sweetness. “Black Becomes The Sun” is a massive as “Blood Seeress;” the weighty pulses of electronic waves of distortion swirl around the driving yet somehow minimal crashes of instrumentation. Bresson’s voice is, as mentioned, divinely calm yet the lyrics betray the threat within and speak of destruction and death. The claustrophobic atmosphere bleeds into the sudden quiet around the halfway mark, and Bresson’s wails and inhuman shrieks soon reverberate with a fraught tension whilst the trudging march of horror continues behind her cries.
“Omens” is an ordeal and should not be entered into lightly. The disconcerting aura is fraught with a wild energy and takes on an almost ritualistic tone with glances of repetition and surges of noise giving a black edge to the proceedings. Enthralling.