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Monarch : Sabbracadaver

Accessible yet challenging, Monarch's latest full-length is packed with grim and creepy atmosphere.

It seems just like yesterday when I first saw Monarch on stage. “On stage” may be a poor choice of words, as the band was actually playing in a squatted house that used to be a brothel back in the '30s. But, that evening, the band was playing their second ever gig in my home city, and it was 2005 and their 666 double album just was getting released. As was their custom at the time, Monarch simply delivered a huge wall of sound, thick enough to suffocate you (especially considering they were playing in what used to be the entrance room of the ex-brothel) with every single note, and actually what seemed to be a conscious decision to avoid any trace of melody. The NOISE and SOUND, in all their heavy and majestic splendour. Over the years, the band has refined its own brand of Sludge/Drone/Noise/Crust/Ambient/Whateverthefuck Doom to the point that, nowadays, you can simply recognize them on the basic of a simple riff alone (or the voice of Emilie, for that matter).

'Sabbracadaver' follows in the suit of what the band has been doing since the release of 'Mer Morte': a kind of abrasive yet atmospheric mix of Crust, Sludge and Doom (and I'm tempted somewhat to say Doom/the band and not Doom/The genre). Compared to their early efforts, where the SOUND was all that seemed to matter, this time it's all about the atmosphere. And it's a creepy one. In many ways, 'Sabbracadaver' is the companion to their previous offering 'Omens', to the point that both albums could be seems as two faces of a same coin. Both are moody albums, bent on submerging you into an oblivion of icy blackness where the images brought forth by the song titles and the lyrics will come to life before your eyes. Once again, the band use some Black Metal imagery in both their cover art (nice B/W picture, but I prefer the one for their 'Sortilèges' EP myself) and their song titles (i.e. 'Pentagrams', 'She-Wolves' and 'Dead'), and all I can say is that they bring with it more grimness at the table that the horde of wannabe KISS-like corpse-painted kids that ejaculate their teenage angst all over the Internet.

'Pentagrammes 'starts slowly, with some foreboding noise that wouldn't be out of place in a gothic horror movie. Then you start to hear the voice, a slow and clean feminine one, like some priestess from an old forgotten cult praying to salute the apparition of the full moon. Guitars come next, and you FEEL their rumblings into every bone of your body, like some massive beasts shaking the earth under your feet, and then the song really starts. Emilie goes on whispering, and maybe it's better for your sanity that you don't understand exactly what she is saying. Until she screams. And suddenly, you start to think that Alan Dubin has finally found his master (or mistress, in this case). When Emilie screams, she scream painfully, violently, sickly. She expresses what you're afraid to look for inside the deepest recesses of a serial killer psyche. She screams like she's being tortured, and she wants to share that physical and psychological pain with us. All the while, the band throw some massive doses of sonic tar inside your ears, or what's left of them. It's 17 minutes of the sickest Doom ever played, and it's never boring. It's also full of light inside the darkness, thanks to the eerie clean vocals of Emilie, that sound as if Kate Bush had decided to become frontwoman for Darkthrone.

'Louves' is in the same league as 'Transylvanian Incantation' on their previous album: a track strictly dedicated to make you at ease, so you can finally catch the breath that had been stolen when listening to 'Pentagrammes'. Still, 'Louves' is longer than 'Transylvanian Incantation', here being a really independent track, rather than just a musical bridge between two longer songs.

Which finally brings us to the most challenging track on the album: 'Mortes'. 18 minutes long, and really starting after an around 5-minute opening movement that wouldn't be out of place in a Progressive Rock song. This is maybe where the real Monarch stands, as a somewhat bastard offspring of the most extreme and sludgy Doom there is, and Progressive Rock. 'Mortes' is a stand-out track, full of change of moods, of variation in the riff structure, of soundscapes being created through near Space Rock riffs that could have been raped by Amebix. This is more a musical piece than a real song, something that will of course takes its full meaning when played live. This is actually what every Drone band this side of SunnO))) have been desperately trying to bring to a record for the past 8 years (and I'm looking at YOU, Bunkur!!) : something that is both a song, a musical composition and a somewhat 'avant-garde' take on an old style. The kind of stuff we could have heard if Klaus Schultze had been in Burning Witch.

Like everything by Monarch, 'Sabbracadaver' will be a 'take it or leave it' for the listener. For those that'll be hooked by the strange kind of Doom displayed by the band (and frankly, apart from Corrupted in a somewhat close yet different league, I can't see any other band playing the music that Monarch is playing), 'Sabbracadaver' will be a hell of ride, but a damn' rewarding one. For those hesitating in trying their luck, be assured that 'Sabbracadaver' is even more accessible to the newcomer that 'Omens' was. As for myself, I won't hesitate to say that it's my favourite record from the band so far, and one of their most challenging so far.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Pentagrammes
2. Louves
3. Mortes

Duration : Approx. 46 minutes

Visit the Monarch bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-11-15 by Laurent Lignon
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