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Atmospheric Space Druid Doom - 80%

TheUnhinged, April 11th, 2018
Written based on this version: 1999, CD, Relapse Records

During the 90's, the hybrid of death and doom metal was pretty fresh and had a lot of territory to be explored. There were still so many niches to be found within the style, tying in bands as drastically different as Theatre of Tragedy and Disembowelment to show the variety within death/doom. It seemed as though the United States seemed to favor the rawer, more death metal-driven sound, with bands such as Winter taking on a sort of harsh, slowed down death metal approach. Meanwhile, European bands such as ToT or My Dying Bride were experimenting with classical instruments, goth and darkwave elements, and more sophisticated or romantic lyrics to make the sound more refined.

Well, Morgion were a band that found themselves dipping into both ends of the spectrum. Their earliest demos consisted of a very raw, harsh, and ugly sounding death metal with some doomy sections here and there. By the time of their first album, Among Majestic Ruin, they had grown slower, heavier, and added in some haunting keys to create a Medieval atmosphere. Here, the band took things a step further, in terms of creating those majestic, magical vibes. The recording quality is much cleaner, the buzzing guitar tone of the first album has evolved into a thick, resonant tone that only enhances the heaviness, and the mood and atmosphere of the music have become even more esoteric and epic.

If it hasn't already become readily apparent, the emphasis of this album is the atmosphere, which is what Morgion's strongest suit seemed to be in all of their full-length releases. Each of their albums takes you somewhere different, and I absolutely love that about them. My understanding is that Dungeons and Dragons was a major influence for the band lyrically, and the darkly enchanting concepts are reflected in the melodies of the guitars and keys, which sound incredibly sinister and even somewhat Gothic (as in cathedrals and Renaissance art, not gothic rock). On Solinari, there is kind of an otherworldly, astral feel to the music that conjures up images of stargazing from the view of some kind of dark fantasy world; makes you think of things like space druids, castles, auroras, etc. You know, atmospheric, majestic stuff.

The basis of the song structures are on the balance between calm and menacing vibes. I would go as far as to say about 45% of the album consists of keyboard passages and clean guitars, which create a warm, almost dark ambient-style sound. Spoken and whispered male vocals are utilized pretty frequently to accentuate the mysterious vibes of the clean sections. Then, we have the meat of the album; the slow, thunderous, down-tuned doom riffs. The tempo is, more often than not, one step above a funeral drag, with powerful hits and progressions that build up to more epic mid-to-fast tempo paces.

Going back to the vocals, Jeremy Peto has a distinctive growl that sounds a bit more human than the monstrous gurgling or gargoyle-like shrieking that is commonplace in this particular niche of metal. Yet, it also doesn't sound as emotional or heartbroken as the moaned grunts one would hear from the likes of say, Anathema. Peto has a deep, mature tone that enunciates the lyrics clearly, and his spoken vocals add an oddly calming effect during the quiet moments. Something that I almost wish the band had included would be some clean vocals from guitarist Dwayne Boardman (whose charismatic singing would later take on almost a lead role on their final album, Cloaked by Ages, Crowned in Earth). Even if he were to have just added some "oohs" and "aahs" here and there, I feel as if it would've enhanced the haunting atmosphere that the band set out for with this particular record.

The guitar and bass tones are very thick, with a bit of fuzz, and pack in quite a punch. The overall sound of the distorted instruments brings to mind the cavernous and abrasive tone that Evoken have been known to use, most notably on their Quietus album. This stands out especially during some of the slowest periods of the release, such as when the distortion comes in on the opening track, as well as a particular moment on track 'All the Glory...' in which the drums drop out, letting the guitars drone out for a moment. It's very gritty and raw, so the combination with the backing synths makes for a nice contrast.

One issue that I have with Solinari is that, while I do enjoy the mysterious and dreamy ambient sounds from the keyboards and clean guitars, it felt as if the latter half of the album sort of fizzles out into just pure ambient sections. The first five tracks (well, excluding the brief acoustic title track) all find a happy medium between heavy and atmospheric, whereas the three closing tracks lose that edge. The track '...All the Loss' continues directly after the aforementioned 'All the Glory...' and half of the track is just one big build-up, eventually leading to a climactic explosion of epic, lumbering death/doom in the final couple of minutes... but after that, we are left with the final two tracks 'Blight' and '...the Last Sunrise'. The former of the two starts out similarly to the song before it, in that it all seems as some kind of build-up; consisting of keyboards, clean guitars, mid-tempo drumming, and some distorted lead melodies floating over top of it. However, it never really builds up to anything beyond that; it just sticks to a calm, spacey sound that fails to reach the intensity of the earlier tracks. Lastly, '...the Last Sunrise' is an outro, played entirely on synthesizer, which really just felt like filler to me. Going back to Anathema, this issue is one that I experienced with their second album, The Silent Enigma. Several of the songs on the album are very heavy and intense, but then the rest of the tracks are either ambient interludes or songs that play out as if they were build-up to something greater, but merely meander on without reaching that point that it would need to keep it interesting. Thankfully, in Morgion's case, it is not nearly as blatant here as it was on that particular album.

Aside from that, this is a really enjoyable album for me. It's a suitable example of a band who is able to sound atmospheric, while still sounding dark and threatening. I think a few other albums that sit in the same field of haunting death/doom as this album would be Infinity... by Desire, The Scarlet Tapestry by Thorns of the Carrion, and Of Shadows and Pale Light by Whispering Forest. Each of these albums mix heavy, raw death/doom metal with haunting keyboards and/or clean vocal passages to make for the same kind of majestic, almost hellish sounding atmosphere that Morgion successfully pulled off here. It's a shame that not too many bands have been able to blend such elements as well since those albums, but regardless, they are all worth looking into for fans of majestic, dark, and enchanting sounding doom metal.

Successful Doom Metal - 80%

BeingAtWar, April 2nd, 2005

6 years have passed and 'Solinari' affirms its timelessness and stands proud over the uninteresting majority of Doom Metal.
In 'Solinari', Morgion had created an album that appears to - musically, not conceptually - capture the magesty of the entire extent of a great civilisation from its creation to a mysterious ruination, buried by sands of history.

Intricately composed songs present variety in tone, volume and cumulative depth - implementing this trinity to grand level, painting vivid mental imagery in the mind of a listener.
Each song has its own organic pulse and an inconspicious, mystical 'soul' which is the essence of 'Solinari' that flows throughout the album.

The 'rhythm guitar' layer is pregnant with emotive potential. It's nature is in constant flux; sometimes an ultra-heavy ('Like An Everflowing Stream' guitar tone x 5), aggressive, rhythmic force that warps all other instrumentation under its gravitational force, at other times it will become the mediator between the synths and percussion.

In the case of the latter, Morgion create a sense of musical space remarkably and, initially, overwhelmingly well. A particular instance of note begins with the synth layer is brought to prominence like the Sun finally traversing a dense veil of clouds. The synth chords seem to correspond to the guitar chords, the guitars are essentially extended beyond its intrinsic 'reach' by the synth layer and the synthesis is a widened vista of sound that is engulfing and emotive.

The hypnotic percussion of the marvellous Rhett Davies accentuates the tidal-wave like motion of the guitars. The bass drums' sound is rich but not booming and has the quality of a boulder. The drumming is unconventional. It conforms to the will of the other layers, reflecting subtle nuances in the Doom-heavy yet porous quality of the rhythm guitar; the bouncing Goth Rock bass-lines that have a tendency to change the direction of a song when brought to prominence; and the epic, stream-like melodies that flow in and out of subordinate layers.

Mention of the all-important melodic crown of 'Solinari' brings us to consider the further experimentation with guitar. The guitar is reconfigured throughout to, for example, pierce through Raison D'etre-esque ambient passages and still not perturb the intangible force that controls and directs 'Solinari', or divide a phrase into different parts represented by different tones working for each other. 'Canticle' in particular is a lengthy demonstration of the successful use of variety of tones, from the acoustic to the razor-sharp electric, to create a holistic beauty within the one, monolithic central riff. In a moment of immeasurable grandeur, the wholeness of this passage is amplified by the ultra-heavy guitars. Thus, Morgion avoid repetition with their clever approach to Doom Metal.

With such a guitar sound still in mind, it is not difficult to realise why the trusting Morgion also utilised the guttural but open-throated vocal delivery of many a SweDeath Metal band.
Spoken word vocals recite the abstract hymns of 'Solinari' and, it must be said, eminate quite an amount of sleaze. However, they also serve more of a creative purpose with passages of gradual building up, often concordantly with the music, towards 'Death growls'.

Nuitari has conquered! - 93%

MacMoney, August 25th, 2003

Morgion started as a band in the beginning of the 90's. At that time American death metal was going strong but Morgion for some reason decided to play more Swedish styled deat metal. Their demos were compared to releases of such bands as Carnage and Grave. Not until their 1996 debut Among Majestic Ruin did their style develop into the more My Dying Bridesque (much deathier than MDB though) doom/death-style of Solinari.

The album begins slowly and the pace doesn't pick up much but that was to be expected since this is doom metal. The music consists mostly of two different kinds of atmospheres. There's the more melancholic part with acoustic guitars or clean electric guitars, whispered or spoken vocals, peaceful and distant synth melodies and sparse drumming. The other atmosphere is the deathier one with powerful but doomy distorted guitar riffs, aggressive drumming and the raging death vocals of Peto. All of the songs consists of these parts taking turns after each other with two distinct differences: the title song which is a two minute interlude and ...The Last Sunrise which is an ambient outro.

Even though there are mainly just two different kinds of parts, they're all so captivating yet different enough that the sameness doesn't get boring. The dark and gloomy atmosphere that Morgion creates in this album is pretty much unrivaled except by Thergothon. The drumfills of Rhett Davis are very impressive though so seems to be the case with most doom metal drummers. Another noteworthy part of the music is the Fields of the Nephilim-like basslines and guitar melodies. They create a similar contrast between the strong riffs like female vocals and death vocals create but more tastefully.

Morgion has created something magnificent with Solinari. This album is very much unrivaled in its own genre. It is too bad that this line-up has already broken up.