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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]