posted on 6/2011 By:
When I first heard about the Boston-based crust sludge group Morne, I was hesitant to give them a chance. Having attended Berklee College of Music for the past few years, I'm always relieved to come across a genuinely great band, as opposed to the overly emotional and pretentious messes that always seem to be cropping up. Thankfully, Morne delivers a beautiful and unyielding album that would make any Bostonian metalhead proud.
Drawing influences from across the board, Morne has taken elements of doom and post-rock and created a unique atmosphere that’s both depressing and aggressive. While their first album, Untold Wait, fell victim to the monotony that so often preys upon doom metal, their second full-length release, Asylum, builds upon the potential not quite realized on Morne’s past record. All of this is accomplished without losing their grasp on captivating material, and the band has undoubtedly experienced a great deal of growth since 2009.
Wonderful ambiance is created throughout the album, thanks to thoughtful and effective use of synths. Placed deep within the mix, they let the sorrowful riffs, heavy rhythm section, and impassioned vocals tell most of the story. That’s another thing about Morne that sets them apart: the vocals. With his delivery best described as a world-weary bark, ex-Filth of Mankind’s Milosz Gassan takes some getting used to. However, after listening to the powerful (and seventeen-minute long) first track, “Asylum”, I found myself deeply connecting with the juxtaposition his painful shouts created with the layers of woeful instrumentation. Still, there are times where the vocals seem like a jarring interruption from the well-established atmosphere.
Sustaining a heart-wrenching mood for over an hour can prove a challenge, especially when trying to create a sense of movement and evolution throughout the course of an album. This is where Morne has failed in the past, but Asylum achieves this by not lingering on slow sections for too long, and by constructing sections with striking dynamics on each track. “Nothing to Remain” is a standout, burning slowly but emphatically for seven minutes before bursting into a bone-crushingly climactic end.
Morne does an incredible job of taking unadorned riffs and structuring them in a way that is emotionally resonant. “Killing Fields” is a song brimming with despair and struggle, and through effective repetition, it achieves a bleak and desolate vibe without curdling into something boring and uninspired. The entire album seems to be coming from a genuine place of darkness and brooding anger.
The longest reprieve from hostility comes with the final track, “Volition”. Minimal strings, keys, and guitar are joined by haunting guest vocals from Jarboe (ex-Swans) as well as Amber Asylum’s Kris Force on cello, and for nearly six minutes, the listener is utterly absorbed in this tender sonic beauty before crashing back into dense and all-encompassing gloom. Morne’s gift for creating gorgeous textures is at its finest with this tune, and it’s a relief to hear a metal band incorporate strings that don’t come across as contrived. A brief return to poignant simplicity marks the end of the album, a gentle conclusion to a mighty offering.
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