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Monarque are one of the bigger names in the Quebec black metal scene, and when I saw them live in Montreal in November of 2016 the local crowd responded very positively. There's definitely a lot to like about Monarque since they did put on an awesome show. Their second full-length, Ad Nauseam, is also easily one of the best albums from this scene. These guys play some damn strong black metal and all the right pieces come together here on this album.
Four of the tracks here were re-recorded from the band's debut demo of the same name. The re-recording gives the guitar a more complete sounding depth and, more crucially, has a live drummer instead of a program. The fuller, more organic sound really helps these tracks a lot because Monarque's sound is rooted in riffs that have this epic yet angry tone to them. Though some parts have a melancholy tinge to them, those are few and far between and the album for the most part has this angry tone as Monarque's eponymous frontman dishes out his destructive lyrics with hate filled shrieks.
Ad Nauseam is a fast paced album with only a few tracks featuring drastic tempo changes within themselves, but the riffs are varied enough to make this a continually interesting listen. For forty-two minutes, the album also paces itself really well. The album carefully divides the straightforward tracks "Ces immondices...", "Non-rédemption", and "Je ne suis pas" among the more dynamic ones "L'abysse aux charognes", "Mes blessures", "Un essaim de corbeaux" before finishing the album with the more mellow outro track "La vallée des larmes" and concluding with the raw sounding screams and organ bits on "Noirceur". It never gets boring and even though my first experience with this album was just me repeating "Ces immondices..." over and over because I was hooked on the catchy melodies, the truth is that every song on here is just super strong.
Though the album has an occasional background keyboard in some of the tracks, the focus on more traditional black metal styled riffs and overall short length makes Ad Nauseam a great entry point for anyone wanting to explore the Quebec black metal scene. I can't reiterate enough that it's also easily one of the strongest, and Monarque have left a permanent impression on the scene with it. This is high quality black metal that should not be skipped.
Achieving the correct mix is tantamount to an album's effectiveness, and Canadian Monarque has done so for this second full-length. Pure black metal compositions delivered in dense rhythms of razor edged guitar work and the slathering vocals of the Monarque himself. The bass and drums take a backseat as they compose a blasting, epic atmosphere for the vocals and axes to writhe around in, but this is one of the cases in which you don't feel the loss.
I should mention that this album isn't entirely 'new' material. The majority is a re-recording of the original Ad Nauseam demo, with a few new songs added. Regardless, it becomes obvious this material deserved the retread because it's superior to Fier Heretique. A static symphony "Ouverture" parts way into darkened noise-like ambience before you are hit like a ton of bricks by "Ces Immondices...", indoctrinated into this musician's wasteland of imagination. While the riffs are pretty familiar by any black metal standard, it is their delivery that makes them memorable, the fantastic sound of this album. At the very edge of perception in the verse, you can hear these slight synths which create an ambiance of desperation and sorrow. "Mes Blessures" opens with a beautifully depressing, yet driving structure, an unexpected, simple melody carved into the basic shell of the rhythm guitar. "Un Essaim de Corbeaux" is a catchy mid paced track, glimmering synth work complements the majestic rhythm before it once again picks up into a saddening blast.
"Je ne suis Pas" is one of the newer compositions, and it starts off rather typical but the bridge riff creates a wonderful if repetetive atmosphere which nearly lulled me into hypnosis. Another new piece, "L'Abysse aux Charognes" is a more charging, nasty track clearly indicative of Monarque's roots and influences ala Mayhem, Emperor, etc. "Non-Rédemption" is my favorite of the more recent material added to the demo, an epic track creating a cascade of that brand of castle wall-scaling glory that only black metal done well can capture. "La Vallée des Larmes", which closed the original demo, is a slower, brooding piece which recalls the glory of Bathory's Blood Fire Death album. The album closes with the haunting "Noirceur", creepy whispers and snarls over dark ambiance, pipe organ tones and tape static.
Ad Nauseam is one of the better Canadian black metal albums I've heard in years, despite the 2005 origins of much of its material. Monarque is adept at creating atmosphere through his compositions. Some of the riffs felt average at first, but through repeated listens the subtlety of the creations slowly dawned on me. If you enjoyed Fier Heretique or the split with Mortualia you'll want to pick this up.
Its a mystery is the name of a now defunct and still popular children’s show here in the United Kingdom and also represents my thoughts for this new Monarque full-length, entitled ‘Ad Nauseam’. I’m surprised that Monarque, both the band name and the pseudonym of the bands only member, has decided to re-release the debut material some four years prior to the demo, of the same name, being released. Though I considered the demo to be a lot stronger than the debut full-length, entitled ‘Fier Heretique’, I remained cautious at the approach that Monarque were taking. By re-releasing the demo material, with this brand spanking new production sound, is he stating his intentions to return to the old style that brought about much critical acclaim? Or is this simply a re-working of old material due to overwhelming nostalgia? Either way, I am pleased as hell that Monarque decided to use the material from the demo and put it to use on a full-length because this area of Monarque’s career represents the best era for the material the band has created. Considering my review on the demo, and in comparison to the debut full-length review, its easy to see why I’m in favour of this material and why I will give this record a higher rating than that of the debut. There is only one major difference anyway, despite the inclusion of three new songs. This and the fact that Monarque are once again beginning to hit their stride makes me a very happy man.
Fans of this style will remember fondly back to the days when Monarque sounded fresh and exciting. Emotions that were conjured up due to the demo and revisited in a truly nostalgic fashion, granting me, as the listener, a passage towards the way I felt at the time of hearing the demo for the first time. Though I do not currently have the demo to hand, I remember vividly the material that was on it and, due to the fact that the material here is almost identical to it, will be able to judge this in comparison to the demo. The only major difference between this, the full-length, and that, the demo, is the clearer production. In terms of the demo, the production, which was fuzzy and highly distorted, gave the demo an extra lease of life. It gave the soundscapes a new platform to work from, a platform which granted the soundscapes more room to manoeuvre. Like an artist, Monarque needed a sturdy blank canvas to build on and the production gave the band that - a mysterious identity, drawn out on occasions by the insipid haze and misty nature of the production. Though the production is cleaner and clearer, this does not affect the position of the soundscapes in terms of quality. Monarque, the bands only member, is talented and able to produce the right amount of nostalgia that will allow the listener to look beyond the fact that the hazy production no longer gives a special feeling to the instrumentation. Monarque were never one of those untalented bands that had to rely solely on atmosphere anyway, so its irrelevant what the production does.
The song writing is strong and the performance in general is even more so. I get the feeling that the re-released material was produced solely because it deserves to be and Monarque has a good feel for it. He is able to produce his best work when using these old formats and formulas. Though the record may place too much emphasis on guitars and vocal work (which is outstanding), there are subtle elements (like the surprising symphonies of the keyboards/programming) that maintain the pre-emptive feel. Feelings of nostalgia were never dependent on the production anyway. Besides which, Monarque has decided to pull a few new tricks on us this time round, with the inclusion of 3 new songs. Despite this, the main positives, in terms of the songs on an individual basis, still lies within the original material and the new production values they’re given. The old songs still remain the most appealing aspect of Monarque’s career, particularly songs like ‘Ces Immondices…’ and ‘Mes Blessures’, which characterise and epitomise the essence of Monarque. However, the aforementioned fact that there are surprising elements makes this record more dynamic than it may first appear. Take the outro, for example. The use of the organ and its funerary style gives Monarque a façade that may not have reared its ugly head previously. The band certainly knows no boundaries and is able to produce some of the most subliminal moments recorded in black metal history. Monarque undoubtedly has potential to go on from this and record the next generations most inspired songs.
Canada has always had a strong scene, in my eyes, with many bands laying deep beneath the surface of the overall black metal scene, but ultimately giving it the strong foundations that it has. Despite not being as well known to most, Canada, and Monarque, are quietly producing the goods with records like 2009’s ‘Ad Nauseam’ which roughly translates as ‘to a sickening degree’. Despite the disappointments felt on ‘Fier Heretique’, Monarque still remain high up on my list of most inspiring and inspired Canadian black metal bands and this is a fine example of why that is. From the old school style of the guitars (though this is a relatively new addition to the record that didn’t exist on the earlier demo), particularly on songs like ‘L'abysse Aux Charognes’, which reminds me of the ‘raw’ sub-genre with more class and the transitional state of Darkthrone (from ‘Panzerfaust’ onwards), but better to the influential sound of the old material re-worked, Monarque still manage to dazzle their listeners with creative and dynamic pieces on all aspects of the instrumentation. Though I imagine some sections of supporters will want a change, this is a class apart and should be able to satisfy the majority, given the fact that it does contain new songs as well as old one’s.