Monarch - _Omens_
(At a Loss Recordings, 2012)
by: Dan Lake (7.5 out of 10)
Some drone-heavy recordings take their mission far too seriously. The last album I heard from these French downers certainly did that. Monarch(!)'s 2008 slab _Mer Morte_ grumbled impotently through its unastonishing 34 minutes with a bare minimum of punctuating crashes and eerie screaming fits to act as sparse and feeble road markers. _Omens_ largely remedies that problem. Kick-off track "Blood Seeress" defecates super doomy riffs and ghastly shrieks but keeps the pace consistently a beat or two above flatlining. The first half of "Black Becomes the Sun" delivers funereal beauty rather than sludge, using Emilie Bresson's breathy soprano and Shiran Kaïdine's alternating keen-'n'-buzz guitar chords to lift the song out of light-swallowing murk and predictability. Later, the piece delves into bleak, rubbery ambience, anguished vocal squalling, and erratic percussive movements. Four-minute interlude "Transylvanian Incantations" hovers in the hazy shadows of musical possibility without ever becoming music -- in other words, precisely where you'd expect a track to live when it inhabits the space between two quarter-hour (on average) behemoths.

As with all recordings of this ilk, _Omens_ won't sway detractors of slow, moody metal. Anyone who thinks quicksand skinny dipping could be their cool new hobby should get excited about a new Monarch release. For everyone else... hey, there's always the new Chevelle record.


(article published 12/2/2012)

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