The cover art to Never Forever (Profound Lore) sums up pretty well what to expect from Monarch’s latest album; a black and white inverted crucifix fashioned from butterflies, dark and ominous juxtaposed with beauty. The symbolism of the butterfly hinting that this is going to be a tour of the darker recesses of the human psyche.
Never Forever is a particularly potent blend of funeral doom and drone, right from opening track ‘Of Night, With Knives’ the haunting vocals shine, raw and beautiful in equal measure. Enchanting, ethereal, yet harrowing, like some hybrid of siren and banshee. At times reminds me of both Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas’s epic Mariner (Indie Recordings) or, more closely, Sinistro.
As is fitting with any amp-worship band, Never Forever needs to be played as loud as the structural integrity of your house and the sanity of your neighbours will allow – so loud you can hear it with the very marrow in your bones, and any ASBO’s accrued are pretty much worth it.
‘Song to the Void’ booms away insistently but patiently and ‘Cadaverine’ continues with some titanic sections, titanic as in watching icebergs drift past in the night, in awe at both their beauty and effortlessly indifferent destructive powers: beauty and tragedy locked together into a slow-motion spiral of decay before ending with ominous and grinding dry vocals which sound like the world falling apart.
The surprise track of the album is a barely recognisable, but nonetheless epic, cover of ‘Black Diamond’ by Kiss both magnificent and mesmeric. Every note of the slowed down solo’s rings out with screaming feedback allowing you to savour the discordant beauty. The already quite doomy original ending with its increasingly slower ‘bongs’ now delivered in such a way that it feels as though the earth’s gravity got turned up with gratitude, and lays the groundwork perfectly for the absolute masterpiece of drone that is the final track ‘Lilith’.
It’s by this point in the album, in every playthrough so far, I hit a trancelike state I usually only encounter when meditating. A sense of peace and satisfaction that is rare in an album. A testament to what good drone should be, and the transition as ‘Lilith’ loops back into the hypnotic opening track ‘Of Night, With Knives’ keeps the journey going for many repeat listens.