Sanctuaire first arrived in 2014 from the mind of one of Quebec’s most prolific black metal practitioners, Monarque Helserkr, the man behind the eponymous two-man band Monarque. Monarque, the band and the person, are pillars of the small Quebec black metal scene. Around those parts, Helserkr has played with or been the driving force behind underground gems like Ephemer, Déliquescence, Sui Caedere and many more. He’s also graced the stage with Forteresse. Fun fact: Stereogum’s own Mike Nelson and I caught him live with his Forteresse compatriots years back — before we knew each other! — in the basement of Santos Party House, Andrew W.K.’s venue on New York City’s Lower East Side.
Whereas Monarque-the-band’s songs tend to evoke icy majesty, Sanctuaire carry echoes of ancient battlefields. A lot of Sanctuaire’s material is ambient, mournful synth soundscapes for grim gray days and valleys strewn with carrion. On the new “Graver Sur Les Pierres, Les Souvenirs D’Hier” — from an upcoming LP called Le Sang Sur L’Acier — those ambient elements underlie a mournful and epic black metal ripper. Acoustics strum and drums boom behind a lead guitar driving ever forward and a chorus that sounds like a war cry. By the end, there’s only the sound of the wind, the scrape of a sword pulled from a sheath, and a chant for the dead. Listen.