Band – Palus Somni
Album – Monarch of Dark Matter
Country of Origin – USA/UK
Genre – Black Metal
Release Date – May 3rd, 2021
Label – Blackseed Productions
Author – Ivan Gossage
A Fire Which Burns The Void: A review of Monarch of Dark Matter by PALUS SOMNI
The celestial nightmare of PALUS SOMNI begins with almost no warning. Like the spontaneous explosion of a doomed star, Monarch of Dark Matter erupts in a brilliant, violent discord, twisting guitars straining against the gravity of the rhythm section for only a few moments before Imber’s icy vocals join the fray.
With the hallucinatory, disorienting riffs, industrial momentum, compressed cosmic atmosphere, one would be remiss to not make an association almost immediately with the legendary BLUT AUS NORD as an anchor of reference, particularly when the cacophony lapses into a delirious lead over ragged bass and a staggering pace in the opening title track. As I have state elsewhere, Stroda’s other project DECOHERENCE is one of the very few contemporary projects which align well with the French pillar’s general sound and develop something sublimely darker and heavier. It is no surprise then that PALUS SOMNI does something similar but quite clearly veers towards colder, scathing and demonic path, not least of which seems to be due to Imber’s influence, but also the vicious percussion from Eoghan (AKHLYS, AORATOS, etc). Furthermore, while this association is relevant at first, it becomes clear as the album progresses that we are confronted with an increasingly elevated level of diversion, dynamism, and ferocity.
“Igneus Solis” begins with a similar plodding step but gains momentum towards more traditional black territory before “The Dark Maria” enters with its periodic unnerving electronindustrial ambience. Things start to pick up pretty significantly with “Sidus Ludoviciana” and “Unholy Cosmic Quintessence” (perhaps my favorite track) which march purposefully out of the gate before flashing into a blasting, massive, epic wall-of-sound approach not unlike what we may hear in projects of Naas Alcameth’s hand. “Caliginous Stellar Womb” is ballistic from the onset, all cylinders on fire and Imber’s vocals ripping through the mix more prominently. I have grown to appreciate a mix on the vocal which does not place them loudly above the music, but which instead levels them with or even submerges them a bit below the instrumentation. Such is the case with Monarch of Dark Matter, and it does so beautifully, the derisive abrasiveness of Imber’s black metal attack, caustic enough to be overwhelming, perfectly balanced within (not on top of) the overall cosmic cyclone, even in the moments like “Caliginous Stellar Womb” when they are most audible.
“Chained to the North Star” fallows a similar pattern as “Sidus Ludoviciana” and “Unholy Cosmic Quintessence”, while “Iron Empyreal Rain” takes an approach heretofore somewhat unexplored, and that approach is… beauty. Stroda here has composed a serene, moving introduction transitioning into a doomy vibe, which in turn gives way to a particularly hyperblasting, savage percussive display from Eoghan, while the song nevertheless maintains a magnificent grasp on melody throughout (note: this is another favorite track for me). Monarch wraps up with “Frozen Moon Chaos”, pensive at first before the wary listener is slammed with the dense, layered, expansive onslaught that they have come to relish throughout the course of the album.
Ultimately what we have with Monarch of Dark Matter is an incredibly impressive debut from PALUS SOMNI: industrialized but raw, cosmic but infernal, vast but dense, measured but chaotic, and progressively driving with increased conviction towards inevitable galactic annihilation.