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.
Monarch has a unique approach to album structure, often composing a substantial amount of music within just a handful of tracks. Never Forever interests me for its place within this trend—it’s your second longest album (coming in just behind 666) and has more tracks than any other album in your discography. How do you settle on album/song lengths in the writing process, and what inspired the ambitious run time on Never Forever?
Shiran Kaïdine (guitar): We gave this album’s structure as much importance as songs’ structures. And in both cases, we wanted to create something dynamic. We had lot of song ideas, riffs, ambiance and even texture ideas; the challenge was to create something coherent that can be catchy and deep in the same time.
Michell Bidegain (bass): I think we wanted the tracks on this album to be complementary, as in the vibe on say one track would underline what would happen on the next track and vice-versa, all the while thinking of the album as a whole, like a full entity, and not just as certain number of random tracks.
Stéphane Miollan (guitar): The tricky thing is keeping things focused. Each riff, every note has its purpose in relation to a clear objective: to write the best possible story. Length is not an objective but a consequence. If you did a good job, 20 minutes will feel like 5.
Emilie “Eurogirl” Bresson (vocals): We didn’t really calculate the run time of each song. We just knew that we wanted to make a double LP, so we had to do with the run time of the vinyl support. We also wanted to write an interlude for Never Forever so that the longest songs would be more digestible and to give the listener time to process what they had just listened to. That is why we added “Song to the Void” between the two first long songs of the record. Also, I had this melody stuck in my mind, and I had to find a way to let it out! Writing a Monarch record was the perfect excuse to do that!
While it hasn’t appeared on all of your album covers, the upside down cross has been a recurring theme throughout your career and is often featured as the focal point of your records’ artwork. Why is that?
Emilie: Because upside-crosses are cool! It has nothing to do with satanism or anything like that. We are not a mystic band that does dark rituals! We’re just a bunch of punk kids that have grown up and don’t want to let go of that state of mind. We do what we want, when we want; fuck the world, for it is rotten and is going to collapse. The upside-crosses maybe symbolise that more than anything else. It’s kind of like a way to say that we don’t want to be part of what is surrounding us. Basically it’s like saying “no.”
Michell: Yeah, we’ve always used dirty scrawled upside-down crosses in Monarch, not in an anti-religious way, but like in an anti-everything mainstream way. Keep it punk, dirty, dangerous and fun. It’s rock n’roll music. Listen to Pisschrist.
Asking about an artist’s influences is probably the most cliche interview question, but given how many sounds and subgenres Monarch pulls from, I’d be interested to know whom you draw your inspirations from?
Shiran: Finnish bands like Thergothon, Colosseum, Purtenance. Sophia (the dark ambient/cold industrial project of Peter Bjargo from Arcana and Meanwhile) and The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud (Austria) were real inspirations in term of textures and ambiance.
Emilie: I don’t know half of the bands that Shiran just talked about! Maybe that is what makes our music richer—we don’t listen to the same bands, we don’t only listen to doom, each of us has our own influences and it’s great! That way we discover new bands in the van when we’re on tour! To me for Never Forever, I’d say Swans, Cranes, Bathory, Outkast, She Past Away, Primordial.
Michell: Disclose, GISM, Corrupted, Darkthrone, Coffins, Loss, Wu-Tang…Basically anything that we listen to can influence our song writing. When I think heavy, I tend to think Run DMC or Weezer, before thinking Warning, which are sooo solid heavy. Like, I listen to more Doom the band and MF Doom than actual doom.
Stéphane: No particular music style, in fact. Dead Can Dance, Corrupted, Ulver, Melvins, Judas Priest, Paintbox, Contrast Attitude. The influential things are usually “outside the doom tag.”
What is your impression of the “state of doom metal” in 2017, and how do you think Monarch fits into that landscape?
Shiran: I don’t know that much about the doom metal scene in 2017, as I mostly listen to old bands. Recently I really dig the works of Swallowed (Finland) and Dolpo (Italy); two opposite ways to express sad and slow music but both are brilliant.
Michell: There are some amazing doom bands out there, like LOSS, Bell Witch, Graves At Sea, etc. But as for keeping our ear to the street, I think we’re too busy listening to Discharge. It’s great that there’s this renewed interest in doom metal, as I remember it fading quite a bit like 10 years ago. With this renewed interest obviously comes new opportunities for heavy bands to play, which is great. More festivals, label interest, etc., as their is a solid crowd for this kind of music. Lots of new bands coming out, some genuine, some just jumping on the trend. But then again, I guess that’s a story that’s old as dirt.
Emilie: I’m too old and too cold to have any idea of what is going on in the doom scene in 2017. I’m not a music geek at all, so I could not say. My impression is that a lot of doom bands today are doing the exact same music while a few are rising above and still want to reinvent what doom music will be. I guess it has always been that way and probably always will be.
Stéphane: There’s been a big doom metal trend (for years now). It’s great in one aspect, as it creates opportunities for us to play more and have a wider audience and meet a lot of other bands. On the other hand, it can create a loss of creativity and authenticity. As a band, it’s our responsibility to keep exploring our vision and doing our best to honor this music. The rest is not our responsibility.
You’ve worked with Profound Lore for your last two albums – what has that relationship been like, and do you foresee continuing to release your material with them?
Emilie: Chris [Bruni, founder of Profound Lore] is great! I hope that he will still be interested in working with us in the future.
Michell: Yeah Chris is the man! He is awesome to work with, very approachable about ideas, and with Profound Lore being a one man operation, communication is super smooth. Chris has released so many great records, just being on the roster for us is a huge accomplishment. As long as Profound Lore wants to release Monarch, we’re super down!
What are your aspirations surrounding the release of Never Forever, both in terms of touring and otherwise? Or in other words, what are your underlying goals for making new music at this stage in your career?
Shiran: I feel like Never Forever has showed us a new path to explore, and we feel pretty excited and curious about where it leads.
Emilie: I just hope that people are going to like this album as much as I do! I want to share it with the world, kind of like when you fall in love and want to tell everyone.
Michell: I think we learned A LOT making this record, be it in songwriting, production or just being open to new ideas. Between the band, communication was really good, as in we didn’t plan on splitting up during the recording process…that was new and refreshing. I don’t know, I was kind of bummed when we finished recording it, because as time-consuming and hectic as the whole ordeal was, we had a blast! So yeah, we’ve already started writing new material, which we’ll try to push further!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Shiran: Listen to Nocturnus‘s The Key.
Stéphane: Thanks a lot, see you at the bar!
Michell: First round is on you. We trade merch for booze.
Emilie: Oh, and we want to tour Iceland.