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Monarch - "Omens" (CD)

Monarch - "Omens" CD cover image

"Omens" track listing:

1. Blood Seeress (12:54)
2. Transylvanian Incantations (3:45)
3. Black Becomes The Sun (19:37)

Reviewed by on February 22, 2012

"'Omens' is frightening and brutish, yet somehow finds space for unsettling ambience and clean vocals."

A buzzing sound can be a minor nuisance when it comes around periodically. Imagine that buzzing going on for almost 40 minutes, and that’s where Monarch’s new album “Omens” fits in. Three songs take turns jamming sonic screwdrivers into the ear drums until blood has drowned out any noises. The feedback alone is enough to scare away the majority, if the drone-ish pace didn’t already do so. “Omens” is frightening and brutish, yet somehow finds space for unsettling ambience and clean vocals.

Don’t think that these minor diversions do anything to soothe the blows generated from “Omens.” Fuzzy guitars and booming drums from Dark Castle’s Rob Shaffer penetrate any semblance of melody that could wiggle its way in. Staying within the confines of a sluggish tempo, the tension is light with the lack of build-ups. Suspense is the calling card of Monarch on “Omens.” This is not a record where the pulse of each song is like a line graph of the stock market the past few years. The band stays at a straight line, with the slight jolt from a sweep of ambience or when Shaffer breaks loose on “Black Becomes The Sun.”

Shaffer’s moment to shine on “Black Becomes The Sun” comes at the halfway point. His off-timed blasting jars the senses, and act as a battering ram to separate the etherial first half and choking atmosphere of the second half. It's two completely unique sides to Monarch fit into a 20-minute epic, and both compliment each other like two former lovers reconnecting after a decade apart. The soft female vocals in the beginning are counterbalanced by the incomprehensible screaming that is all over “Omens.”

Monarch has been known to keep their full-lengths to one or two songs, so it’s out of the norm for the band to include the brief interlude “Transylvanian Incantations” in the middle of the album. Sounding like something out of the soundtrack to a snuff film, the unsettling mechanical noises and synth-ish lines commandeer the instrumental to the darkest corners of the human soul. It’s appropriate for how the other two songs come across, though it doesn’t stand out much on its own.

“Omens” is not one of those “stuck in your head, listen to on repeat every day” kind of ordeals. That makes “Omens” strictly for people who live off the thrill of single guitar notes echoing into the empty beyond. Monarch has been doing this for six albums now, and they portray a band that has the know-how to lurch and crawl over songs that don’t break under 10 minutes.

Highs: Drone done right, band knows how to put out unsettling atmosphere, Dark Castle’s Rob Shaffer is a solid addition to the band

Lows: Not much build-up in the music, isn't the type of album to pick up and play, vocals are incomprehensible

Bottom line: "Omens" is noise stacked on top of noise, a deafening cry for help that drones on for almost 40 gruesome minutes.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)