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Sur terre rappeler Dieu - 72%

Wilytank, January 24th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2013, CD, Sepulchral Productions

Four years after Ad Nauseam, Monarque release Lys Noir. As one of Quebec's biggest black metal acts and considering how awesome Ad Nauseam was, this album would be a highly anticipated follow up. Unfortunately, while Lys Noir still retains a fair amount of Monarque's brilliance, it falls way short of the high water mark they set with their previous album.

But first, I want about where this album succeeds: the first three tracks. These tracks feature some high energy black metal that will definitely be remembered as some of Monarque's best songs. "L'appel de la nuit" and "La quintessence du mal" introduce a more melancholy tone that Ad Nauseam didn't quite wholly plunge into. The tone doesn't get to depressing levels and it takes little away from the songs' powerful riffs. "Vigor Mortis", the intermediate track, takes a different route with its more haunting tone made especially potent with the ghostly "ooooh!" keys put in at the final stretch of the song. Put all together, these three songs are the collective high point of this album.

While the first half of Lys Noir is definitely worthy of praise, the same can't be said about the latter half of the album. After an interlude, the track "Mes condoléances" continues the melancholy tone of "L'appel de la nuit" and "La quintessence du mal". Unfortunately, it's seven and a half minutes long and only goes through two riffs over blast beating drums until the final two minutes of the song. Following this track is a cover of a Frozen Shadows song. Despite it clearly being the best track of the last three with some pretty strong riffs, it just lacks the emotional power that makes Monarque's original riffs really amazing on their better songs. The album ends with the slow paced "Comme les vers; sous la bannière du lys noir" which might have worked as a track put in the middle of the album, but as an album closer it's just weak. Unlike "La vallée des larmes" from Ad Nauseam, this song doesn't provide any sense of climax or closure. It just ends and then the album is over.

So that's Lys Noir. None of it is particularly bad, perhaps with the exception of "Mes condoléances" for just being boring, but I really can't recommend it beyond the first three tracks to anyone exploring the Quebec scene. That's what this album feels like: three amazing songs and then filler. I hope Monarque step it up for their next album.

A straightforward BM release with surprises - 88%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, March 30th, 2015

For a band that has been active in the Québécois BM scene for over a decade, Monarque have released just three full-length albums, the bulk of their discography being made up of short recordings and splits. This is an act that sure knows how to treat the full-length format: this isn't something to waste by filling it up with mostly forgettable pieces hanging onto the tails of a couple of good tracks. "Lys Noir" is a powerful and raging beast of absolutely frigid Arctic ambience and fury.

Introductory track "L'appel de la nuit" sets the stage for what's to follow with onrushing force, anchored in the main by strong energetic drumming and a battery of darkly acid tremolo guitar riffing and melodies. The vocals, melting under reverb, are very icy banshee screaming. For music that is mostly straightforward old school black metal, the band introduces touches of acoustic music in parts, and this tendency to surprise listeners with unexpected gifts in amongst the ghostly howling and the speeding music recurs in later songs. Most songs have their distinctive melodic or chord sequence motifs, as in the squiggles that appear in "Vigor mortis" or the changes in key that bring extra darkness and melancholy to "La quintessence du mal". The Monarque duo are certainly aware that they can experiment if they wish with their music but I think they prefer to keep such innovation to manageable proportions in most songs so that it fits the mood of the music or lyrics rather than dominate them. The style of the music is fairly minimalist and is dominated by the steely abrasive tones of the tremolo guitars and the forceful drumming.

A gentle though sometimes ominous ambient / acoustic instrumental interlude comes as a welcome break from the anger and aggression of the first half of the album before we charge ahead. After this break the second half of the album takes up the speed, fury and emotion exactly where the first three songs left off; this is a very focused recording and everything is very tight yet energetic and flowing. The tone of the album becomes even more frenzied in "Mes Condoléances", initially a speed-freak of a song which slows down to a steady and solid trot and a reverent church organ instrumental at the end. This pattern repeats in the following songs - on the whole, fast and aggressive, but with unexpected brief moments of quiet acoustic instrumental melodies - and this section of the album turns out to be musically and emotionally complex.

This whole work is crafted well with every moment made to count and hardly any slackening in pace, energy or direction. If anything, perhaps the album is a little too fast and efficient as most songs are jam-packed with layers of guitars, percussion, voice, ambience and (on a couple of tracks) organ; and on top of that packaging which might last an average of 6 minutes there may be multi-tracked demon vocals, spoken voice recordings and nature-themed field recordings. Quite a few songs merit furtther musical development into something very intense and atmospheric. On some tracks the percussion takes the lead and its energy carries the song with passion and power. When quiet introspection is called for, the acoustic and ambient parts can be stunning in their fragile beauty and stillness.

Monarque sure know what works best for their music and how to embellish it with other elements. The result is an album that initially meets most listeners' expectations of solid straight-ahead black metal but which manages to work in some surprises that give the music an epic quality.

Lys Noir - 85%

theBlackHull, August 11th, 2013

It has been six years since Monarque offered us Fier Hérétique, its first full length album. Since then, it re-released the Ad Nauseam demo in an extended format, along with an impressive number of demos, EPs, and splits. In the meantime, Monarque (the guy) also found time to commit to other bands and musical projects: Pestroyer, Carrion Wraith, Sui Caedere, and Blackwind, among others. The least we can say is that Monarque is very prolific, being literally the Shatraug (Horna, Behexen, Mortualia, Sargeist, etc) of Quebec.

Lys Noir, the new Monarque album, comes as a nice milestone both in the band’s discography and in Sepulchral Productions’ catalog. The proud Quebec black metal label is known for its quality releases, and this 33rd offering is no exception.

This slab of appropriately-named “métal noir” (reference to the French lyrics and the Quebec identity) has the words “full length” written all over it. While the many demos and splits of Monarque display various types of production and genre, one thing that we can say about the albums is that they are more refined in sound and more homogeneous in nature. Orthodox black metal is the main genre found here, most riffs being straightforward, abrasive and aggressive.

The album also has an important coat of atmosphere, achieved through instrumentation and arrangements. From the first narrative speech (movie excerpt) to the various noises, short passages of clean guitars and keyboards/organs, we are surrounded by a storm of coldness, horror, or melancholia. Creeping up your back spine, these signature Monarque arrangements are supporting the songs, rather than being autonomous, and offer the perfect balance to coat Lys Noir in a black atmospheric veil while retaining its orthodox genre; for example, the songs “L’Appel de la Nuit”, “La Quintessence du Mal”, “Solitude”, or “Comme des Vers”.

Lys Noir is undoubtedly focused. This 38-minutes album is relatively easy to absorb and will make you want to go back to it. The songs are average length, their structure sometimes giving the impression they could have been developed a little further; on the other hand, this ‘restraint’ gives an unstoppable steamrolling dynamic to the album. The energy is further provided by the tight production and musicianship; on that page we need to acknowledge the work of Bardunor (Csejthe, Hiverna, Crépuscule, etc) on drums, and Atheos (Pestroyer, Délétère) on guitars.

As if the album wasn’t already excellent, Monarque decided to craft Lys Noir into something even more dynamic, and added a pinch of extra variety to it. Cutting harmoniously with the rest are the ‘punk-ish’ (in a Darkthrone way) “Vigor Mortis”, and a Frozen Shadows cover. To my opinion, the later was not necessary to make Lys Noir a good album, but is nonetheless a clever choice and an excellent rendering.

While certain songs can be isolated, Lys Noir flows as a whole, more like Fier Hérétique than Ad Nauseam. As mentioned earlier, this great quality is achieved through overwhelming atmospheric elements, an excellent dynamic, and an adequate production. There aren’t really any chorus that stick in your head and the guitar harmonies are hidden behind a dirty curtain of rhythm instruments. Nonetheless, once we press play, we embark on the unstoppable swing of the Grim Reaper.

Monarque has rarely let us down, and Lys Noir proves it once more. The name is widely respected on the Quebec “métal noir” scene and abroad, and the present album is one that should easily solidify this reputation.

Worthy of mention, the cover artwork is signed by France artist Maxime Taccardi. Of blood and ink, I would describe Taccardi’s art in general as an open wound. With a raw honesty, it shows us the pain, the screams and the horror underlying. It has a dirty and infected aesthetic and it itches from top to bottom. We can’t get used to it, but we keep coming back to it; Taccardi designs captivating artworks for the eyes and the soul (or for the soulless ones) that are very evocative, like for Lys Noir. I would end this album review by saying that this collaboration between the two artists – Monarque and Taccardi – is remarkable, for both are inspired, drenched in darkness, and very expressive at the same time.

- TheBlackHull
[Originally written for]

Equipped with the arsenal of night - 80%

autothrall, June 12th, 2013

Production was one of the personal selling points of Monarque's sophomore full-length Ad Nauseam (an expanded demo rerecording), and it's also proven a forte for Lys Noir, an effort which streamlines the Quebecois act's sound into a flood of wretched, resonant emotion. I admit to not paying much attention to the intermittent series of EPs and splits that vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Monarque has released since that 2009 offering, but upon receipt of this new album, I instantly recounted the cover artwork for that last record, and was excited to hear the developments in his compositional skills and atmospheric flourishes he might have brought over from some of his other projects (like Déliquescence). Admittedly, my expectations were met, if not entirely exceeded. Lys Noir lacks the benefit of that initial impression that so engrossed me those several years back, but it's a textured, competent, consistent rush of agony and ecstasy nonetheless.

Though it's artistic lineage hearkens back to 2nd wave Norwegian classics like De Mysteriis dom Sathanas, In the Nightside Eclipse and Transilvanian Hunger, Monarque actually conjures up comparisons to recent fare from Finland's Sargeist or Sweden's Arckanum in that it implements deceptively simple tremolo picking progressions that cultivate a breadth of depth, sorrow and glory, like a last, desperate, suicidal charge into the afterlife. But the differences here are in the atmospheric dressings like the organs that roil across the landscape of the rhythm guitars to create a more fulfilling, 'classy' sense of aggression, a cultured and musical wall of force. If I were to break down a lot of the specific riffing patterns, they'd not be too impressive on their own merits, but if placed into the context of Bardunor's rapturous blasting patterns, simmering melodies of both the guitar and the organs, and Monarque's substantial, resonant rasping, it's difficult not to be overrun by the sheer weight, syncopation and momentum of the thing. Granted, the blasting does become a trifle monotonous, as it will in most records that rely too heavily upon pure speed over tempo variation, but at the same time, Lys Noir might not be so effective without such a sense of unfiltered, tempestuous exposition.

It's not all rampant force, of course, and there are segues in which clean guitars and chill ambiance take over, deep in "L'Appel de La Nuit" or dominant through the beautiful interlude dubbed "Solitude", which was one of the most inspiring points of the entire album. The closer, "Comme Les Vers; Sous la bannière du Lys noir" also takes a mildly different approach with flowing, slower chords reminiscent of late 80s Bathory that shift into some beautiful, mesmeric and simple tremolo picked patterns. Lys Noir also serves as a tasteful pseudo celebration of Quebec black metal, not only by featuring Sébastien Robitaille of the esteemed Sorcier des Glaces on "Comme Les Vers", but also a cover of Frozen Shadows' "Au Seuil des Ténèbres" from their 1999 debut Dans les Bras des Immortels, a bit of a cult classic for this scene, and flush with the originals if a fraction more savage in disposition. Once again we experience this sense of unity, self-idenity and defiance among the musicians that is also reflected in the Quebec culture as a whole, which is one of the reasons I admire the place and its people.

Tonally, Lys Noir was precisely what I was hoping for, with the abrasive, sustained rasping of Monarque taking command of the album's vaulted, starry ceiling, and an unapologetic, violent fluidity to the rhythm section. Bass and drums are still relegated to 'support staff' for the riffing, organ and vocal arrangements, which does inhibit the potential rhythmic variety of the album to an extent. Personally, I'd like to hear some more interesting fills or change-ups to round out the excellent accelerated segments of the songs, but I do realize that a lot of proponents for this style would beg to differ. However, when Monarque does slow down to breathe, it's quite transcendental, so you can understand why I'd like a stronger balance between the two dynamic poles. Ultimately, while it is hardly a novel or masterful exercise in its medium, Lys Noir is damned solid, a bullrush of stamping feet in the bleachers of a cosmic arena, while a thousand chalices of blood are toasted to the sky until they become crimson-stained stars. Wish fulfillment with a razor.


Monarque – Lys Noir - 90%

Asag_Asakku, May 1st, 2013

Most artists are realizing preparatory sketches before tackling their main work. These drafts, drawings or demos sometimes become valuable by themselves, but their primary role is to allow the author to express ideas and concepts that are then used to accomplish a masterpiece.

Québec band Monarque followed this path, with the release this month of a third full-length in ten years. However, this new album’s genesis is found in an excellent demo called La Mort, launched two years ago. Distributed in very limited number in pro-tape format, it outlined several aesthetics changes adopted by the band, who then took a decidedly epic and melodic turn, recalling Emperor and Abigor first records.

Entitled Lys Noir, this new album has a front cover that expresses well the band’s intentions. Logo (which looks like a shrub) does not appear and the beautiful illustration is a contemporary work created by Maxime Taccardi (« Novissimis Temporibus » painted in part with the blood of its author) that symbolizes the end of cosmos. An excellent introduction to a remarkable album.

After a short narrative, L’Appel de la Nuit opens hostilities with a great mix of aggression and melody. Organ layer and a brief acoustic interlude illustrate a brilliant song writing which is not limited to predefined aesthetic frameworks. It reigns over this song a wonderful atmosphere, but it is with La Quintessence du Mal that we reach the peak. Album’s author creates a long crescendo with breathtaking intensity, with a short tapping sequence and a really effective keyboard final.

Acoustic interlude Solitude allows the introduction Mes Condoléances, long song marked by melancholy and despair, where music replaces words to express strong feelings. Again, structures layout and mixing demonstrate a thorough work with results that go well beyond the usual Black Metal standards. Drumming, both playing and mixing, is also one of the greatest successes of this record.

Monarque’s members finally have a pleasant surprise in store for us that have a symbolic value. The band performs Au Seuil des Ténèbres from the reference-album Dans les Bras des Immortels recorded in the late 90s by Frozen Shadows, pioneer of Québec black metal. Eras collide with this brutal and fast song that adds strength to Lys Noir. However, its conclusion is rather disappointing. Comme les Vers is a good song, but its linearity and lack of depth clashes with the previous titles and leaves an aftertaste of incompleteness.

Never minding this last observation, Lys Noir is a beautiful album that leaves – from the first listen – a strong impression in the listeners’ mind. Accessible and grandiose, it is undoubtedly the most accomplished and mature work in the history of our national black metal scene, the result of a long creation process, in which each sketch have counted.

Originally written for Métal Obscur.