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I got to know this band through a friend who at the time was into experimental, post-metalish and avant-garde bands. Therefore, I was expecting this band to sound like Pelican or Intronaut., good bands, that nevertheless sometimes bore me to death. So I checked the Metal Archives and saw the description of their sound as pure sludge. A relief of sorts. But then, what got me into thinking perhaps this band would be different to what sludge have us accustomed was their lyrical theme: depression. Then I saw the cover, a dark photograph of a grey sea and what appears to be an amalgamation of the moon and sun in one shining orb, and thus I wondered if the album was as bleak as it seemed. Well, the answer is yes, it is bleak, but there’s more to it than just that.
Morne’s debut is a breed of sludge I have never heard before. It’s pretty depressive, and at the same time has a mild aggressive feel to it. Actually, this could be remotely compared to Isis’ early works, albeit a bit less atmospheric and more riff-oriented. The songs are more or less varied between them, but the longer ones feel a bit overlong, since they mostly use no more than four or five riffs throughout them. The majority of those riffs are pretty simple, but quite catchy most of the time. The problem is that they’re repeated over and over again during long sections of the songs. I think I understand why the band chooses to do so, since it actually translates to an intended monotony, which leads to a sensation of oppressive depression. However, though the goal is achieved, it ultimately ends up getting a bit boring and not too memorable. Is a subtle balance, and I think Morne manages to neither fail nor triumph completely.
“Eyes” is a dark dirge that slowly builds up. It starts with a string section playing slow melancholic notes for around a minute, ‘till some heavy doom riffs introduce us the overall sound of the guitars throughout the whole record. Then a cycling pattern of toms starts to pound, and continue to do so for most part of the nine-minute sludge epic. By the four-minute mark a narration ensues and by the seventh minute the rhythm increases by some faster riffage. Nearly before the end of the song some harsher vocals appear. They’re typical sludge harsh vocals (think John Baizley of Baroness during the early stages of said band), and seem a bit low on the mix. Nothing special, but not bad either.
Next couple of songs, “Force” and “Machine” are more traditional sludge, pretty straightforward, though is the riffing that keeps them more or less interesting. And after that we got a couple of six-minute pieces, “Seams” which is the faster of the two but more monotonous and “Twilight Burns”, that displays some tempo changes and is more melodic. But the truth for those two is the same as the previous songs; the riffs are the highlight. Then, the best song of the album arrives, none other than the seven-minute title-track. It also starts with cello and violin in sorrowful mood, and then it briefly reminds me of Agalloch ‘till the singer comes in. It’s a sad sludge ballad and the most melodic track. The string section returns some minutes before the slightly more up-tempo finale. The last minute consists of some Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality inspired riffs.
And then we have the worst, and unfortunately longer track of the sad sludgers debut. “Sorrow” in fact starts pretty promising, in a more aggressive fashion that its shorter companions. But in its all-too-many eleven minutes it only repeats two distinctive sections to boredom, and particularly the last section of the song drags-on forever. This could have been reduced by four minutes easily. Most songs have this problem, but it’s the closer the one that makes this more evident. And not even the return of the string section, which at this stage is no more a novelty, justifies its length nor makes the track’s finale bearable enough.
This band has potential. They are skilled enough, and have come up with some catchy riffs, and particularly their experiment of adding strings to their dose of sludge is an adventurous one, and it works pretty well here, since is not overused and it certainly adds to the somber atmosphere. The rhythmic section could have been a bit less shy and show some personality of its own, but it gets the job done. But truth is, this album is perhaps TOO depressive and monotonous, and it gets tiresome. I wanted to like this album more, and I’ve given a lot of spins, but the more I listen to it the less it captures my attention. So lets hope these guys return with a stronger sophomore release.