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This monolithic double disc set of 142 minutes of pure Doom covers the early years of Morgion's tenure at Relapse Records, a label more commonly known for its grind and Death Metal variants than for Doom Metal. Featured are the bands' albums "Among Majestic Ruin" of 1997 and 1999's "Solinari", 1999's "Oceans Without Shores" EP and a few random demo tracks thrown in for good measure, making it a great place to start for any Doomfreak like myself who hadn't previously known the band.
For some reason it is their second album which kicks off disc one with the melodramatic "The Serpentines Scroll / Descent to Arawn" which sets the scene for what is to come. In it's 10 minutes is the most somber of intros as well classic mournful Doom with a grating guitar sound ala Entombed on "Left Hand Path" and Amorphis-like keyboard background melody, massively reminding me of their 10/10 1994 classic "Tales From The Thousand Lakes". Imagine the Amorphis influence carried throughout the rest of the album along with the dark spiritual bleakness of Finnish funeral Doom titans Thergothon and Skepticism and Britain's My Dying Bride. "Canticle" and "Nightfall Inferno" among others reek of these influences, notably the passages of spoken vocals where vocalist Jeremy Peto sounds genuinely upset and distraught. While not the blackest of Doom in its atmosphere, it is a lot more despairing than the more upbeat (at least recently) sounds of Candlemass or the drugged vibe of Electric Wizard. Disc 1's bonus tracks ("Oceans Without Shores" EP) offer a similar tone and feel, not surprising given that the two releases initially came out in the same year.
Disc 2, Morgion's debut album "Among Majestic Ruin", though released in 1997 was actually recorded in 1994 and it shows as the influence of Thergothon is much greater back when they ruled the roost of extreme/funeral Doom. The vocals are growled in what is basically Death Metal-style grunts, perhaps closest to Chris Reifert (Autopsy), but the atmosphere and guitar tone pull it to more extreme territories. The speed however does pick at times closer to a Death/Doom style and "Relic of a Darkened Past" even pulls itself to slow-for-Death-Metal speeds previously inhabited by Death on "Leprosy" or about any Obituary recording. "In Ashen Tears (Thus I Cry)" feels like the strange paranoia of Cathedral's "Forest of Equilibrium" classic and "Travesty" could actually be an Amorphis cover such is the weight of their influence, especially in the keys/piano department. That is not a slight against Morgion however as few bands have tried the "...Thousand Lakes" sound and when done well, as in here, it's majestic and attention-grabbing. Bonus tracks on this disc are some demos and a rehearsal track, with one being disc 1's opener "The Serpentines Scroll / Descent to Arawn", the main difference between the inclusion of some choral vocals as opposed to the singular style of earlier.
Depending on personal Doom tastes choosing a favourite of the two albums here is difficult: I personally like the darker growled vibe on "Among Majestic Ruin" but "Solinari" emits a more doomed feel, less contrived than that generated by the keys on "Among Majestic Ruin". This release is absolutely not intended for listening to the whole way through like double-disc Reverend Bizarre and Esoteric albums, as it is more a documented history of Morgion and as such used to sample two different sounds they experimented with in the early(-ish) years of their career. Presumably the two albums featured are hard to come across now and as such a release like this will fill a hole in the collections of anyone who's been after some Morgion for many years.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net