By Earthdog

When you think of the heaviest bands in the world, Monarch would certainly have to be on the list. If they are not on your list, they should be after you hear their new album, 'Omens.' Trying to sum up this band in a few words is a challenge: they are doom, drone, ambient, black metal, and sludge all rolled up into one provocative and disturbing package. Listening to a lot of this album, you can't help but think of Sunn 0))) and Khanate but Monarch are a far more sludgier beast. However, they take the droning style of those bands and mix it with the sickness of Grief and Burning Witch and throw in some sabbathian power chords to top things off. The band is led by Emilie Bresson who delivers a mesmerizing vocal performance that I will go into more detail about later. The band is really pushing into extreme levels of crushing heaviness with this album. So much so that the more timid doom metal listener will find 'Omens' a painful experience to listen to. Formed in 2002, the band have progressed in ways that I never expected and now in 2012 have grown into one of the worlds truly great doom bands.

Comparing this to their earlier albums, it only takes seconds to realize that this is by far a darker, more sinister and heavier animal of an album than anything that have done in the past. That in itself is an achievement considering they were already incredibly heavy and bleak but 'Omens' rises to new levels of crushing malevolence. The album is a bit strange in its track-listing, there are only three songs... two epics and one short track... and it has a playing time of just 36 minutes so I don't think you can call this a "full-length" but I also don't know if it is meant to be. I will call it a EP and hope I don't offend anyone. The short playing time is actually a bonus in light of how heavy this album is, if it was to play for much longer I doubt if many people would sit through it for the duration so the compactness certainly helps this flow from start to finish.

Starting with the 13 minutes of 'Blood Seeress' that starts with a burst of white noise before getting buried in layers of feedback, the track eventually gets on its way with some seriously gripping, downtuned riffage. The tune moves at such a lethargic pace, it makes most other doom bands seem like speed metal by comparison. Musically it is like trying to suck wet cement through a straw with drones being squeezed out rather than played and the vocals are unearthly screams of torment. Emilie Bresson has a rare talent and that is being able to express so much emotion  out of wordless vocals and she uses her voice almost like another droning instrument in its own right.

The following track, 'Transylvanian Incantations' just seems like an extension of the first track and therefore seems a bit pointless. It doesn't stand out as a track on its own, just a way of 'Blood Seerees' having a place to land. The last track however is where they really outdo themselves. The almost 20 minutes of 'Black Becomes the Sun' really makes you think that Monarch are indeed the heaviest band on the planet at the moment. The sonic intensity of this piece is disturbing in a way, it puts you on edge that is like having bugs crawling up your skin but it also strangely hauntingly beautiful. There are slight hints at strong melody here and there throughout this epic but it in mostly about creating the most atmospheric, visceral metal ever produced and they almost do it. The only downside to this track is a drum-solo which really screws up the flow of the piece for me and I hate drum solos anyway.

Apart from the drum solo which is pretty short anyway and a couple of passages which verge on the irritating, 'Omens' is a monster piece of work from Monarch. A lot of it is about experimentation and minimalism so that won't be everyone's cup of doom but this is easily one of the most unrelenting heavy albums of the past year. I don't know if the "heaviest band in the world" tag is something they are actively going after but I can't think of too many records as crushing as this one. Highly recommend you check this album/EP out....9/10.