Release DetailsLABEL Crucial Blast
RELEASED ON 3/13/2007
Dead Men Tell No Tales
posted on 7/2007 By:
Alright. In the interest of not wasting your time, I’ll come clean at the very beginning: Monarch! plays droning sludgy doom (Khanate, Buried at Sea, Moss, etc.), a genre I happen to have a serious crush on. Oh, I know, for a lot of you I just invalidated my opinion for the next three years and you’re now breaking out your old Manowar jizz rag (I can't believe they put metal studs on mine), hoping it can wash away any untrveness you might’ve picked up from reading this far. But, you know, that’s okay because I really wasn’t going to try and sway your opinion and make you go all Benedict Arnold on “real music” or try to make you think that this will be anything more than plodding bullshit. Nor was I planning on preaching to the converted, since they traveled to Aquarius Records as soon as they read “droning” and whipped out their credit card so quickly it set their wallet on fire. Instead, I’d like to have a reviewer/reader conference with you, the person who is still on the fence, the person who doesn’t quite know how they feel about twenty minute songs of long, sustained strums.
If you’re still here, it might be because you’re starting to realize that you've got a thing for riffs that are kind of like your bowel movement after three bowls of popcorn: deliberately and agonizingly slow. And, yes, over these two discs, Monarch! will coax such towering, distortion drenched drones out of their stacks, but—and this is a time to wince at a truly overused cliché—they’re so much more than that. Like a lot of other bands, they’re more than able to aptly summarize pain n’ suffering, be it through Guillaume Lestage’s kit abuse (the guy beats the shit out of the skins like he’s channeling Pesci on a bender), or Emilie Bresson’s unhinged banshee wails, sounding like she’s dragging the dagger “down the street” and spewing venom at those that caused such a conclusion (her disembodied whispering is kinda creepy to boot). Through it all, the monolithic riffs act more like a numbing agent, and at song’s end, the anguish becomes more of a dull throb thanks to being hit repeatedly with the two ton anesthetic.
I won’t lie to you though, if you’re not into searching for subtleties, the song diversity is nearly nil. “We Are The Music Makers” (here as the long(er) version) and “Speak Of The Devil, Speak Of The Sea” could be the same song and were probably only split because of the time constraints of vinyl (the original release medium). Feedback opens both, guitars rumble than riff, cymbals are destroyed, and Bresson screams and layers whispers. The recently released “Winter Bride” and “Swan Song” follow the same path (thanks to the production though, they have a bit more depth). But, it’s not really about the songs (cue more wincing), it’s about the atmosphere that’s created. Proof is in the spoken word version of “Dead Men Tell No Tales” that, sonically, sticks out like a white tux at a funeral. The power drone is replaced by a layered ambient whoosh, almost like Andrew Chalk dicking around with ocean sounds (notice how the minimalism is carried over, though). Here, the whispers aren’t ghostly, they’re, I hate to say this, kind of sexy (What is wrong with me?). But, even though we’re talking totally different ends of the volume spectrum, the track fits among its brothers perfectly because the atmosphere oozes that all-too-common human frustration that life, at points, is a real bitch to get through (or am I just projecting personal feelings onto the music?).
So, it’s true, to be a fan of this genre, you’ve got to be a bit of a masochist. While Monarch! isn’t as suffocating, experimental, or as slow as some, they’re still a difficult listen. Accessible? No. As accessible as this stuff gets? Yeah. So, with that in mind, know that Dead Men Tells No Tales still offers a worthwhile opportunity to investigate. There’s a real chance here to test the musical side of the slow and low (Yes, I wrote that straight-faced). Like a lot of genres, there are certain elements that you’ll want to focus on, elements that will act as your Rosetta Stone and will help you make a bit more sense out of the whole experience. Drone doom isn’t just about focusing on the tortured vocals and riffs, but the hum of the amps. And that’s where we see the divide take place between people who like this stuff and people who don’t. I think Boris put it best, it truly is Amplifier Worship and if that hum feels good deep in your belly, you’ve taken a step towards gaining an appreciation the entire package. As I said before, Dead Men Tells No Tales is a decent place to start, a decent intro, because Monarch! is able to condense a lot of the genre’s strong points into something that’s (slightly) easier to digest. Best in show it is not, but it could be the catalyst that pushes you to find it. Give this a listen and see where you stand. Good luck and sloth speed, fresh-faced one.
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