Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Monarque: A Canadian Black Metal Master

I realise we may have been remiss here at the NFR blog; in dereliction of duty in not putting up anything dark, bleak, black, grim and fucking riffy in any kind of way. Well, this is about to change all that in one feel swoop (of a raven's wing?)

Where better to start than Canada; The country currently producing an immense array of the heaviest, grimmest, most wild and violent wilderness in black metal out there - and it always was, from the excesses of Conqueror onwards. But there is one man doing his best to blot out any warmth that might reach it's shores and forge the paths of metal ahead whilst remaining resolutely Black Metal to the core.


Monarque is one prolific musician who with a host of collaborators has spent the last few years amassing an intimidating catalogue of seriously arresting work. The overarching aesthetic to all these outfits is of an aggressively effective simple approach, traditional in sound and form but embellished with modern flourishes, effects and references. Drawing from several of the subtle increments in the artform's development since its inception in the Norwegian 90's, each of these four projects takes that original sound as it's platform then branches it out into a different strain.

Blackwind - World At War (For Satan) (Demain, L'Apocalypse, Mankind's Demise)

Blackwind - the earliest band to feature Monarque is, quite rightly for a first outing into the wilderness of Canadian BM, focused into a primitive obsession with violence, hate and human stupidity. Relentlessly furious from their first demo in 2002 up their full length Demain, L'Apocalypse album in 2008, this comes on with the brutality and unyielding force of a band like Teitenblood but without the sunny disposition of the Spanish.

Monarque - Un Essaim de Corbeaux (Ad Nauseam, Sepulchral Productions)

Monarque - The most ornate, regal and symphonic of the man's incarnations, the eponymous band Monarque is heavily indebted to Emperor and Immortal as well as the more ancient atmospheric French sound of bands like Deathspell Omega. Still loaded up on spikes, bullets and blood there is an intensely heavy core to these songs, yet there is a sprightliness to the tempo changes and overall feel that gives it a more menacing feel that if it went straight for the jugular all the time.

Carrion Wraith - Vers Une Nouvelle ère (Carrion Wraith, Ars Magna Recordings)

Carrion Wraith - A more conceptually arced project based around the Carrion Wraith, a character spreading rot and darkness through his wintry forests. The musical conception and recording of the album was limited to a 7 day period of spontaneous writing, meaning the entire thing is almost a free solo jam session with a lot of parts conceived and set down on first take. It is totally devotional Burzum worship interspersed with the samples of natural environments, drilling it's naturalistic point home pretty hard through the sound of birdsong, riverbanks and of course forests. Beautifully composed drum machine patterns shift through tempos and underlay the textural guitar work with a perfect balance of elegance, aggression and hypnotic momentum. That combination is underpinned by basslines that really get the grooves moving and throw some uncharacteristic but hugely effective shapes - especially in Vers Une Nouvelle ère, which is why we put it up for you to hear. it sounds like someone rapt in their own world with the absolute peaks in performance committed to tape. The spontaneity is further embodied in the delivery of the lyrics which alternate across the hour long record in both French and English. The standout out recording of all these projects, it is pure unpolished cold Northern trance as it was always intended.

Sui Cadaere - Le Cercueil (Thrène, Sepulchral Productions)

Sui Caedere - Their sole album Thrène is a tribute to Émile Nelligan (French-speaking Quebecois poet), a man who saw beyond the paradoxical worlds of dream and waking life. He was also a little bit blasphemous. The band name is Latin for 'suicide', but the music doesn't go down that melancholic drone route, instead it displays the most dynamic shifts in mood and tempo with a sense of scale and grandeur that eclipses the other three through it's shifts from ambience and atmospheric passages into devastating intensity.


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