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"monarch plays slow songs" - 65%

Noktorn, January 20th, 2011

It's entirely possible that Monarch is just a huge pisstake on the metal scene in general. Their affiliation with Crucial Blast and Aquarius and such haunt me too, don't worry. In retrospect it's easy to think of their success as a calculated thing, but then when you listen to the music again that's dispelled. Who wants to hear shit like this? Sunn O))) is one thing, but Monarch is another- I'd be hard pressed to think of any person willing to sit down and listen to a 40 minutes sludge/drone doom song just to be cool. This makes me think that Monarch is sort of a genuine oddity in that hipster scene, being perhaps the only people playing this sort of music because they're weird or stupid enough to try it. I actually like it for reasons beyond me.

There's plenty of things to hate about Monarch, but the overarching thing that makes them better than other pseudo-hipster drone bands is that they're actually going harder than anyone else out there. There's a lot of slow, heavy, droning bands out there, and Monarch is basically the slowest, heaviest, and most droning of them all. Khanate has never felt as slow as Monarch does- songs don't move, they just sink into pure tar. The cutesy, girlish aesthetic, female vocalist, and affinity for punk and power violence covers might suggest a band not serious in their intent, but then again, listen to the music.

Monarch plays what amounts to a combination of sludge and drone doom, or, more appropriately, drone played with a sludge aesthetic. Massive, incredibly long, droning songs are strung together with just a few riffs each, pounded out over and over again with only tiny variations in the amount of feedback or the business of the drumming providing any sort of context for what's happening. The riffs are so slow they aren't riffs, just massive chords hanging in the air, like the slowest parts of Goatsblood at half speed. Alongside this are some horrendously shrieking or occasionally whispering vocals that help make this just a little bit more like music, but for the most part you're listening for the sluggish, oppressive drone. This isn't good time shit like Earth or Sunn O)))- Monarch is devoid of fun or joy. Every track sounds like a bleary paean to heroin addiction and empty apartments. It's very, very slow and very, very sparse music.

But I'd say that's the appeal, really- you don't listen to a single Monarch track because you like it in particular, but because you like Monarch. Your enjoyment of the band is entirely tied to whether the stated aesthetic- incredibly slow, drifting, wandering music slamming out the same few massive chords while some French chick screams- appeals to you. 'Dead Men Tell No Tales' is a 2 CD album/compilation/SOMETHING that basically churns out the same kind of stuff for an hour and a half, minus the slight diversion in the all ambient and spoken word title track. All the other songs sound the same. They just drown under their own weight and the differences between tracks are so minute and unimportant they're unnecessary to even mention.

I like it for some reason, though. Good music to put on at night and smoke weed to. I'm not sure if there's anything beyond the aesthetic to this music, but it's executed well enough that I can enjoy it.