This is a doozy of a record. It's one of those albums that from the minute I hit play was going to be on my top 10 of 2017 list. Featuring the same unique brand of brooding doom metal that defined Mariner, last years landmark release from Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas, Never Forever is a helluva musical statement from France's doom darlings. The resonant frequencies and overwhelmingly slow crush of Monarch is stunning. It crunches forward step by step with waves of distortion crinkling into your ears, tracks like "Song To The Void" delicately unwind themselves in such a way as to prove, inch by booming inch, that Never Forever is a masterful piece of art. Perhaps I'm just a Subrosa nerd, and this record hit my exact set of tastes, but I think it's a lot more than that. Anyone who spends a significant amount of time with Never Forever will quickly come to realize the depth of the riffs at hand and the overwhelming power and choking majesty of this release.
Coming three years after 2014's potent Sabbracadaver, this record, the band's second on Profound Lore, sees the group reaching serious new steps in their sound. There's a lot of material to unpack here with nearly seventy minutes of material to sift through. The slow moving melodies, tortured screams and delicate, oftentimes washed out, clean vocals are underscored by a mammoth bottom end that drills through your soul and deep into your mind. There is a haunting power to Never Forever that makes it stick with you for hours after listening. It's rare that I listen to a record that really raises the hair on my arms, but such is the case with this one. Even from the first, it's obvious that Monarch have tapped into something greater than themselves here. The songs are all clearly heavily workshopped and built out from top to bottom in a transcendent and powerful way. The development is clear and the internal poetry is consistent throughout, making for a highly endearing listen.
Strangely enough though I think that the defining moment of this record comes with the bands nine minute long cover of KISS's "Black Diamond" in a song fittingly titled "Diamant Noir" (French for, well… "Black Diamond"). While wholly unexpected it's incredibly well done. The best part is that if you aren't in on the joke then you would think that you were listening to another perfectly put together doom metal masterpiece. Monarch prove their greatness here, they are able to take an incredibly popular and influential song, recontextualize it and show that no matter what, there is no holding back the incredible crush of this band. Monarch understand the incredible power of doom metal and they use it as a decimating weapon, wielding it with a sense of grace and class that only the true greats understand. With the maturity that only comes from a band who have been around for two decades and the style of a group who have their finger on the pulse, Never Forever comes at you hard with stunning melodies and a bottom end that just won't quit. If you're into doom and you can't dig this, leave the hall.