Monarque is a one man black metal project from Quebec. Dabbling in the realm of depressive suicidal black metal (DSBM), despite being relatively melodic, Lys Noir (Sepulchral Productions) is unapologetically raw. Much of the melody on the album comes from keyboards that play under the buzz of the guitar. The use of keyboards on the album is very tastefully done, ensuring that any risk of cheesiness is comfortably avoided. Remaining firmly in the background, and allowing the riffs to take centre stage, the keyboard merely adds another textural layer to the album.
The compositions are relatively simple and riff-orientated, but that doesn’t mean they’re uninteresting. The first track, ‘L’Appel De La Nuit’, is one of the strongest tracks on the album, displaying Monarque’s adeptness at both atmospherics, and straight up riffing. The transitions between the two sides of Monarque’s sound don’t always feel natural, but on occasion, such as during ‘La Quintessence Du Mal’, he strikes a wonderfully delicate balance between melody and aggression, rather than opting for one or the other.
‘Solitude’ offers a moment of clarity in the middle of the album, offering welcome respite from the harsh guitars. It might be a fairly generic “acoustic guitar plucked over ambient sounds” formula, but it means that when the blasting returns, it sounds fresh to the ear. The more midpaced stylings of ‘Comme Des Vers’ wrap up the album in fine style, giving the listener a memorable riff, and thus incentive to listen again. It’s a good way to alleviate the blasting without resorting to ambient interludes.
In terms of criticism, Lys Noir does little to differentiate itself from the relatively saturated black metal scene. As a DSBM album, it isn’t as heart wrenching as Austere‘s To Lay Like Old Ashes, nor does it have the distressingly intense atmosphere conjured by Coldworld, or the exquisite melodies of Gris. That said, what Monarque does offer is solid, even if it is unremarkable. This album is still recommendable to those who enjoy cold, raw, yet melodic black metal, or those with an insatiable craving for DSBM.