French doom-metal band Monarch have been difficult for some metalheads, because their visual aesthetic often borders on “cutesy” or “twee.” The pentagrams and skulls on their earlier album covers weren’t intricately carved, but sketched with a childlike abandon. The band was never a joke, despite the lighthearted exterior, and over the last few albums Monarch have adopted a somewhat more traditionally “metal” image. Sabbracadaver, their seventh full-length, continues to be centered around vocalist Emilie “Eurogirl” Bresson, who does not conform to any one particular identity of a “female metal vocalist.” Her wordless croons float alongside the riffs, much like a metal version of Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser.
For the beginning of “Pentagrammes,” the 17-minute leading track, her voice and the feedback of the guitars nearly become one, and the way the riffs and her vocals interact in the middle of “Louves” is the closest thing to a reprieve this album has. Don’t find comfort in these moments, though, because when she switches to screaming, the contrast between her two styles is downright unsettling. The rest of Monarch’s musical makeup has remained consistent throughout Sabbracadaver. The guitars, sparse drums and intermittent electronics from Bresson pile on ever so slowly. The song structures are so monolithic that something as simple as a pick slide on “Pentagrammes” registers as monumental. Monarch’s music isn’t a full front assault nor is it background music; it creeps around and infuses into your surroundings, making everything feel more claustrophobic.