The funereal gloom of a downtuned bass and desolate drum beats welcome us to What Is Imposed Must Be Endured. Lumbering into a steady crush Blind Monarch begin to scathe us with deathly gargles, set off against a harsher, blacker vocal. Then just part-way into the first song Suffering Breathes My Name there’s a turn to a rising blues-doom riff that sets a swaggering groove against the straight crush we started with. Falling into feedback, the song returns to its starting point to crawl through the murk.
And here Blind Monarch show us what they bring to this most despondent end of doom – across the rest of the album they will continue to ride a line between doom traditionalism, sludge swagger, and a ruthless extremity. Despite their fairly low profile, this ability to deftly blend and balance explains why Blind Monarch have had a fair bit of support behind this, their sole four-song record so far.
Originally recorded in 2017, they scored mastering with James Plotkin and a 2019 release through Black Bow Records. The album is now due a (double) vinyl release through Dry Cough Records and Heavenly Vault which adds further hype to the record’s status as a ‘lost gem’ in the doom canon. Indeed there are any number of UK doom albums that the world seems to have ‘missed’ and would benefit from being reissued, but that is perhaps always going to be the fate of bands such as Sloth, Charger, or Pombagira. In my mind the Old Ones are coming back, because the scene here was always more than Electric Wizard.
What Is Imposed Must Be Endured leads us on, towards the stones and whatever dismal ritual may await us beneath that bleak and barren sky…
I’ve been struggling to identify and articulate what it is that distinguishes Blind Monarch from similar ‘long and slow, harsh vocal’ doom bands – as to be honest much of it tends to see me switch off after a while. There’s something to their music that allows us to ‘endure’ and it seems to me that it lies in the balance and blend mentioned before, there’s a tension between the blacker vocals and the relentless tempo.
Also the Yob-like use of blues-based riffs in a very metal context (especially in the eponymous third track). And added to this their use of more spacious material and moments of fragility that could call to mind Bell Witch, or the space that Bismuth explored on The Slow Dying Of The Great Barrier Reef (see the first minutes of Living Altar). That Blind Monarch use all of these tools allows us to follow them across the burned and boggy moor they suggest with the artwork by Thomas Hooper. We may start off lying in the ditch, but What Is Imposed Must Be Enduredleads us on, towards the stones and whatever dismal ritual may await us beneath that bleak and barren sky.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes