Tour de Garde/Les Productions Hérétique, 2016
Genre: Black Metal
1. Graver sur les pierres, les souvenirs d'hier
2. Le sang sur l'acier
4. Chasse sauvage
If you wanted more of that intense Québec styled Black Metal, because Forteresse and Cantique Lepreaux just weren't enough this year, feast your eyes on the new Sanctuaire! Instead of a new Monarque recording, we are graced with a new EP from Sanctuaire and it is a truly wonderful release, as I expected based on what I heard with "Helserkr".
This would probably easily sit in my top ten this year if it were a full length, but alas it is not. Each song is an excellent journey in the realms of Black Metal. Some parts are definitely more atmospheric than others, but for the most part this release is a bit more straight forward. It's very heavy and intense sounding, and blended in with the usual atmospheric feel of Monarque's compositions it makes for a very enjoyable journey. One of the things that stands out quite a bit is the pounding drums this time around. In "Graver sur les pierres, les souvenirs d'hier" they even went after the Mayhem thing where you blast beat, but record tom work over the blasts. It makes for a very intense listen in the grand scheme of things. The closing track "Chasse sauvage" isn't as intense as the opening two, but it sits as a very majestic closing to the EP.
The only real complaint I have with this release is that it is far too short. With "Lune" being a short instrumental, we really only have three songs on this and it's just not enough. Monarque creates a sweeping and majestic environment that just demands to be engaged for more than twenty minutes. Despite this, I can't recommend this enough. The packaging and layout are actually quite beautiful, making this well worth the purchase as far as I'm concerned.
On a side note, I read a review complaining about how the songs weren't that memorable. And that's possibly true, but the thing is, with the more atmospheric style of Black Metal, they aren't creating "grooves" or riffs to remember, they're creating entire sonic landscapes and you listen to an album as whole, rather than song by song. At least that's my opinion on this part of the genre. I'm not sure anyone listens to atmospheric Black Metal for the catchy riffing...
Tour de Garde/Hammerbolt, 2015
Genre: Black Metal
1. Ô Hérésie, ma lame
2. Garden du Nord
3. Souffle de Sidhgard
4. Ultima Thule
7. Terre Celts
8. Éteiles dans le Brouillard
9. Le Labyrinthe
10. Je vois l'Épée
11. Aube du Solstice
If you've missed out on the first two releases from Sanctuaire well now is your chance to hear them on CD. Sanctuaire have finally pressed the material on to CD and really made it worth our while to pick this up even if we have the tapes already. The entire layout and design is incredible. It comes in a digipak with a beautiful booklet inside. This is well worth the cost if you've already got the tape editions of the material.
Les Productions Hérétique, 2014
Genre: Black Metal
1. Gardien du Nord
2. Souffle de Sidhgard
This is the second release I have from Sanctuaire. You may wonder what the point of having two releases was, but I think it was a really wise decision. The two tapes are of a totally different style, so it makes sense for them to be released separately. "Helserkr" is Monarque's foray into total Atmospheric Black Metal and it truly is a wonderful experience. The tape comes with a full fold-out booklet in a very old styled fashion. Absolutely worth getting in my opinion.
This was the first piece of Sanctuaire's material I heard from a sample shared from Monarque himself. I knew this was something I needed to buy immediately. If you are a fan of Monarque's style then I don't think this would steer you wrong... not that this really sounds anything like Monarque. In fact this is more akin to what I see bands like Forteresse and Ephemer producing. The production is a lot more raw, but it really works for a gritty atmospheric edge. There are some sections that hit a little harder beyond the usual atmospheric style in the song "Gardien du Nord", but it seems to work out quite well. The real shining moment for me is "Souffle de Sidhgard", which has some beautiful and expansive riffing. I could just listen to this epic song endlessly. I hope this is a sign that more material will be written in the future, since there are only a couple full tracks on here to tease us. The demo eventually closes with the haunting instrumental "Ivresse", which is where the longing for more begins.
I am sad that there are only three tracks on this release, but in the end I doubt there is a better demo I'll hear all year. If you can really consider this a demo from such a highly experienced musician. I suppose it is sort of unfair to say that in the face of a new band just starting out... very few can write at the caliber Monarque can after years of honing his craft as a writer and musician.
Les Productions Hérétique, 2014
Genre: Dark Ambient
1. Ultima Thule
4. Terre Celts
5. Éteiles dans le Brouillard
6. Le Labyrinthe
7. Je vois l'Épée
8. Aube du Solstice
Sanctuaire is a new project with releases this year. Two vastly different cassette demos. Since, they were released at the same time I'm just going to review "Echo I" first. I'm not sure over what time range this material was recorded, but given the two releases I imagine it was longer than just the year. I usually follow releases from Les Productions Hérétique pretty closely and when I saw this hit, I listened to a sample and ordered as soon as it was available. Now, I first heard a sample from "Helserkr" and I was expecting two Black Metal releases, but "Echo I" is a full Ambient album. It's got a beautiful silver booklet on silver tape and is limited to 50 copies. Surprisingly, it is not hand-numbered.
"Echo I" is actually a very old style of Ambient in my opinion. It feels fairly rooted in the methods of Mortiis' early works. It's a very somber and dark composition. Amidst the droning backdrop of Ambient some parts really shine through like the passages in "Terre Celts" that paint some beautiful imagery. These parts feel more reminiscent of Mortiis' "Crypts of the Wizard", which had a more whimsical approach to his usual dark and brooding style. However, Sanctuaire has a more degree of seriousness with this and the mood never truly lightens in the same way. I truly do love the this minimalist Ambient journey and I miss taking it from time to time. There are a lot of great Ambient musicians out there today, but none of the ones I've heard really tap into that early 90's style performed by Black Metal musicians. Sanctuaire is a project from the might Monarque from the band Monarque and I think the work in Black Metal gives a slightly different perspective on things like Ambient. At least that has sort of been my impression when Black Metal musicians delve into the genre. I really do like that Monarque has kept things simple compared to all the technology he could level at this kind of release. That simplicity generates a sort of beauty in some respects and the part I really do like is that the music flows in an interesting fashion rather than drones on. It never really gets to a point where all the songs sound the same, I feel like this is the problem I ran into with Vinterriket releases as more and more material was being released.
Even though "Helserkr" is a Black Metal release, and a very good one at that, I really do hope Sanctuaire continues to intersperse their releases with full Ambient works and Black Metal works. Bringing them together at times and, hopefully, keeping the releases at times. I think this would be a very interesting project to follow and I hope Monarque continues to work on it, despite his obligations to work with his main project. Recommended for fans of Ambient that grew up with the older days of Ambient.