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After hearing that main band member and chief song-writer Charmock had supposedly slagged it off himself, I initially had my doubts about Morgul’s debut full-length Lost In Shadows Grey, and whether or not it was actually worth listening to. However, following a few spins, I found myself greatly enjoying this obscure offering of Norwegian black metal and its enchanting fusion of synthesised orchestral instrumentation, haunting atmosphere and majestic, free-flowing structures.
Taking rather explicit influence from the likes of neighbouring black metal heavy-weight Satyricon’s mid-90’s output, as well as Old Man’s Child and Limbonic Art’s earlier albums, this release is pretty typical of black metal coming out of Norway at the time, though the progressive song structures and lengthy acoustic interludes give the music an interesting dimension. This relatively stock-standard approach Morgul take however, has still produced around 40 minutes of really killer material, starting out with the imposing beast of a track that is “Enthroned.” An entrancing spell of keyboard melodies kick off the song, which soon builds up into a climatic ascension of thunderous tom fills and cymbal crashes, elevating keyboard choir droning and a surging wall of raw, distorted guitar. Even by now, you can hear how loaded with atmosphere and horrific ambiance the music is, as well as the quality of the production. It’s a little more refined in comparison to the harsh, grating sound of their aforementioned countrymen’s earlier work, which compliments the various synthesized instruments like flute and violin extremely well. The drums also benefit from this clear, yet still slightly abrasive job, with Hex’s tight double-bass work, blast-beats and fills around the snare and toms well-defined and hard-hitting.
With quite an expansive repertoire of techniques, Charmock’s guitar work is surprisingly varied, shifting from melancholic acoustic strumming to scathing tremolo picking onslaughts and just about everywhere in between. Some of the individual riffs really grabbed me by surprise too, particularly the mid-paced grooves with lots of hammer-ons and pull-offs, which have seemed to incorporate a lot more conventional melody into them. The leads and solos are also infused with a rich, melodic flare, making memorable appearances throughout all 5 tracks, although the stand-out is definitely the harmonized lead section during the outro of “My Bride...” Closing with a fucking epic middle-eastern sounding guitar harmony, this brilliant lead work crowns an absolutely magnificent track, although it would’ve been even better if they’d scrapped those goofy half-spoken, half-wailed lines. Fortunately, these are kept to a minimum, and aren’t really that prominent in the mix when compared with the soaring leads, eerie keyboard work and solid back-beat of the drums at the forefront of the music.
Undertaking vocal duties as well, Charmock’s mix of dry, raspy shrieks and piercing high-pitched screams are also very well executed, delivering a commanding and extremely vicious performance from start to finish. It is his work with the acoustic guitar that I always seem to find the most impressive though. His ability to interweave these beautiful passages almost seamlessly throughout the album is just astonishing, whether it be following a full-fledged section of blast beats and piercing tremolo picking or layered together with the mournful baying of wolves like in “Hunger of the Immortals.” Two separate acoustic guitar parts are often merged together as well, usually with one taking more of a lead role while the other is playing a more straight-forward rhythm, and too sound absolutely magical.
Of course, there are a few flaws here and there, with the main offender being some painfully amateur sounding keyboard choir work during “The Dark Infinity,” however these are all only very minor in the context of what’s generally a damn fine slab of Norwegian black metal. It hasn’t exactly aged as well as the likes of Nemesis Divina either, however this underground gem is still worthy of any black metal fan’s attention, and should definitely not go left unheard.