On Tuesday, August 22, at the end of a lukewarm late Dutch summer day, Monarch! and 78 RPM took over the main stage of a reasonably packed dB’s in Utrecht, with the former presenting their upcoming record «Never Forever» and the latter an improvised set. It was the third instalment of the Devoted to Drone series brought by promoter Black Earth – no relation to the Process of Guilt track we showed earlier this week, but to the amazing Bohren & Der Club Of Gore record from 2002, at least going by the shirt worn by the organiser.
As we alluded to, 78 RPM, despite the recordings on their bandcamp, presented us with improvised music. One song where the doom and the drone felt like a destination more so than a starting point. From a spacey quiet guitar piece, it developed through something akin to a sinister post rock or kraturock done the funeral doom way, eventually arriving at full blown drone and transitioning to a noise centrepiece complete with some properly hectic drumming. Though never reaching the development of sound of a single instrument quite the way they do – the approach is not exactly prone to it anyway – the progression of themes and moods throughout it all is reminiscent of a Nadja performance, which is never a bad thing.
The drum kit with new drummer Nemri (from the mighty Sordide) on the left, bass with mic stand on the middle, Eurogirl’s machinery set-up on the right, and guitars on the back. Not a conventional set-up, but then again, Monarch! ain’t a conventional band. They should be regarded as such, it would be a good sign for the industry, but they’re not. I mean, Bresson‘s voice in the new record can get quite unsettling, but getting the best of one’s vocal ability and transmitting real emotions through it, whichever they might be, should be one’s aim, should it not? «Never Forever» is structured in alternation between intense, close to twenty minute long doom pieces and shorter tracks that feel like less than just interludes, rather as genuine, concise displays of their musical expression. That was on display in their set too, as it consisted exclusively of the first three tracks of the album. The first two had already been out and it was a strong, faithful interpretation of them that we got. The third and last one (of the set, not of the record), «Cadaverine», drenched us in fantastic funeral doom guitar passages, perfectly complemented by the vocal prowess of MicHell Bidegain and Eurogirl. Not to create a traditional funeral doom song, mind you, but Monarch!‘s version thereof. It all ties in just right with the different ways they infuse their characteristic doom with melodies, be it through the mourning guitars of «Cadaverine» or through the ethereal atmosphere of «Song To The Void».
Not progressing one’s sound by embracing a new genre, but rather by developing one’s voice as a band in various yet thematically connected ways. It should sound conventional and yet it doesn’t. So be it, we’ll keep on working towards differentiating the latter from the former.