Composing an album with the backdrop of other media is a daunting task. As we discussed earlier this year with our review of Ehnahre’s Theodore Roethke-referencing album The Marrow, it’s difficult to create music that accurately conveys the emotional context of the source material while also extrapolating enough to create a unique voice that can stand on its own. This is particularly true for albums that reference movies and similarly complex texts; whereas a novel or poem contains just text to decode, films contain several more elements that need to be interpreted, most challenging of which is the pre-existing music already linked to the visuals and script. In these types of situation, it’s a smarter bet to draw inspiration from a film while pursuing a larger thematic ideal, which is exactly how Bolt Gun succeed on their colossal, one-track album Man Is Wolf to Man. By drawing influence from a myriad of sources that bolster a stated pursuit—particularly Soviet and Ukrainian filmmaker/writer Konstantin Lopushansky’s dystopian film Posetitel Muzeya (Visitor of a Museum) as well as works by Soviet filmmakers/writers Andrei Tarkovsky and Krzysztof Kieślowski—the band realizes the grandiosity of this endeavor with an excellent display of thematic metal aimed at capturing the “existential horror of Stalinist Russia.”
Writing a standout doom metal album is a difficult task nowadays. This isn’t due to an overall lack of quality within the genre’s modern progenitors, but because of the antithesis; more and more excellent doom metal albums seem to enter the running for our year ends lists with each passing year. MONARCH! (Monarch from here on out) has never struggled with this endeavor over the course of their 15-year career, particularly when it comes to their recent output with the eminent Profound Lore Records. Yet, while Sabbracadaver was certainly a doom highlight in 2014, Never Forever sees the band returning this year with their most colossal and grandiose album to date, presenting a masterful synthesis of drone metal with doom’s more macabre characteristics. We sat down with the band to discuss the process of writing their latest epic, as well as a handful of other topics related to their past, present and future within the shifting landscape of modern doom.
Managing an album’s length is more than just a numbers game. As important as the song count and run time of a track list may be, an album’s experiential length is more closely linked to the content contained within each track. More specifically, this is defined not by the quality of an album’s ideas, but the quantity of those ideas, as well as their organization. As an example, consider your standard 20-ish minute, 20+ track grindcore album—though it may be shorter than most people’s morning commute, a band with the the most simple genre formula is introducing the listener to roughly two dozen song ideas, and if these ideas are executed poorly, the album is going to drag and lose its appeal despite presenting bite size compositions. This isn’t relevant to Never Forever because it suffers from an ineffective length; to the contrary, MONARCH! (Monarch, from here on out), have crafted an album with perfect pacing and structure that enhances the impact of the record. But the band operate in a genre rife with overindulgence, as evident by the sheer number of doom and drone metal albums comprised of a handful of tracks that each rival the entirety of a grindcore album while presenting barely enough ideas to rise above being musical melatonin.