Itās safe to say that, on the grand tree of extreme metal, the doom branch skews away from its neighbours, but certain subgenres are more divisive than others. Monarch crouch in a bleak, claustrophobic little corner furnished with effects pedals and gigantic amplification and inhabited by cerebral-looking characters nodding their heads in super-slow, perfect rhythm. This is drone doom, an unholy blend of terrifying monotone and despondent riffs, and itās not for the casual dabbler. I warn you now: Omens isnāt the most extreme example of the genre but its relentless trudge is a true test of will.
An atmospheric scattering of white noise opens āBlood Seeressā gently before the cavernous rumble of Shiran Kaidinās guitar announces the start of the horror. Emilie Bressonās eerie vocals intersperse the seismic noise like a ghost choir while Rob Shafferās sparse drumming keeps the rhythm good and sinister, and then the desolate, frustrated shrieking of a little girl lost stabs repeatedly at your consciousness. Itās strangely creepy, as the noise and screaming begin to grind to a halt just after 11 minutes, leaving only those chilling choral vocals to wend their way into your head.
āTransylvanian Incantationsā keeps the atmosphere going, possessing a horror-movie feel that evokes images of mist, dead trees and possibly a strategically-placed ham actor in corpse paint and a badly-fitting cape. Itās probably not played for comedy but I canāt help but smile wryly at the slight cheese factor. Fortunately it doesnāt impact on the terror and futility so manifest in the two tracks that flank it, but it could probably be skipped without spoiling the overall listening experience.
āBlack Becomes The Sunā is an unsettling blend of drone noise and ultra-slow guitar work and a mournful vocal that sounds not dissimilar to Julie Christmas (Made Out Of Babies, Battle of Mice) at her most ethereal. The track slows briefly down to simple drone and I had to check my MP3 device to see whether the album was grinding to a close ā the bleak howls that erupted from my headphones soon after seemed to be screaming ānot so fast, thereās plenty left to come!ā Another lesson, metal petals: do not listen to this if your mood is anything less than chirpy. This track particularly will leave you drained; Emilieās forlorn clean vocals and later her tormented wailing snaking into your heart to crush it from the inside. Thereās definitely a mournful femininity to the noise that goes beyond simply having a female vocalist; bizarrely thereās something about the music that suggests that a man bellowing his lungs or even crooning over it would sound incongruous. At the risk of sounding biased (but I use these comparisons purely because Iāve listened to both bands a lot lately), itās a wee bit like blending the sensual, dead-siren dirge of Undersmile with Ishmaelās thunderous instrumentation and fondness for droning away till the end of time.
Of course, droning away is where the album falters ever so slightly. You have to be a keen aficionado of the genre to even consider taking this bad boy on, but even I felt myself checking the time display to see how much longer was left. At just over 36 minutes Omens isnāt a particularly long album, but with the exception of the avoidable middle track, the misery is almost entirely relentless and to be brutally honest, it drags. That said, if you can tolerate the repetitiousness of it all, you deserve this unsettling little slice of darkness as itāll get under your skin and rattle around your skull for hours after itās finished. My own recommendation: check out some live footage on YouTube if you can, as the live experience provides far more engaging renditions!
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