Saturday, May 1, 2010

MONARCH! "MER MORTE" (Crucial Blast)

It feels like i've been waiting for this one forever. About a year and a half ago this came out as a ridiculously expensive vinyl release on Spain's Throne Records, and i passed on it as it was way out of my budget at the time ( i had just thrown down for their super swank vinyl edition of Grief's masterful "Come To Grief" and was tapped out financially.) Luckily, Crucial Blast announced about the same time that they'd be handling the CD version so no worries- i'd have it soon enough. Fast forward to 2010 and it's finally here (what took so long?) and is pretty much exactly what i expected, with a slight laconic twist.
Monarch! are a french doom metal band fronted by an extremely petite female vocalist named Emilie, who also owns her own clothing line that creates uber-cute small, tight shirts for little rocker girls. They're kind of like the "Hello Kitty" of doom metal, if you can conceive it, but they're also one of the most agonized, pulverizing doom units working in the genre. Monarch! are fucking SLOW, so slow that their songs are little more than accentuated power chords bludgeoned out between listless, hanging boughs of feedback. Emilie's vocals alternate (sometimes seemingly without focus) between girlish petting whispers and throat-shredding banshee wails, both methods being equally effective at scaring the shit out of you.
"Mer Morte" is one 35 minute track, a total wreck of a song that goes nowhere at a glacial pace and only begins to move at about 20 minutes in. It's business as usual for Monarch! but this track stands a bit apart from their catalogue in that it's way more subdued and features more of the aforementioned "whisper" vocals, creating a weird disassociated feel, like you're listening to some sort of beyond-death transmission, like someone from the other side is trying to get in and your consciousness is the door. The wall of electricity is the conduit, the small, frantic hushed vocals the message. What Emilie is trying to say is beyond me as the lyrics are in french but its totally absorbing from the first second. Few doom bands can do this glacial style well and still remain interesting and gripping (Khanate are really the only other i can think of who go this slow) and it's to Monarch's credit that they're able to so utterly transfix me with what's normally an incredibly abrasive, oppressive subgenre. "Mer Morte" ends with about two minutes of Emilie's isolated crooning, a near empty, almost sad kind of personal choir. You want to think it's "pretty" but you know it isn't. There's something wrong through all of it; if only you knew what. Totally unnerving uneasy listening. Recommended.

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