There’s a lyrical passage in one of the songs on Morne’s new album that comes across like a challenge:
Show your fear
Show the way you bleed inside
Wear your wounds like I wear mine
When you listen to the music on this shattering album, those words seem to be more than a possible challenge to listeners. They could just as easily be understood as an expression of the challenge that these Boston doom insurgents set for themselves when they made this record, one they threw themselves into meeting, body and soul.
To the Night Unknown is a monster of an album. It’s almost an hour long, which is a behemoth by modern standards, and the music is also staggeringly heavy. The weight, however, comes from far more than the mountainous low-end tone of the music and the bone-fracturing impact of the sound when the band lock all the instruments together to carve your skull with primal grooves. The music is wounded, and emotionally wounding, and Milosz Gassan‘s vocals are so shockingly raw and ragged that the pain in the words becomes an agony you feel in the places where you hurt the most.
The lyrics often seem like a wrenching conversation with another person. They’re full of imagery — of shattered days and shattered nights, of dying light and encroaching darkness, of deep rivers and shadowed roads, of winter ice and burning fire, of blood and pain. The music, as well, channels moods of crushing despair, of wounds that won’t stop bleeding. The riffs torque the tension (the opening of the album’s title track sounds like a vise tightening against bone and a sander grinding against tough sinews) and they suffocate hope; the melodies moan; the leads shiver and simmer in a fever; the solos wail and scream.
But there’s more to be found here than unnervingly vivid sensations of oppressive gloom and soul-splintering despair. To repeat, this is a monster of an album, and there are monster riffs to be found here in abundance, the kind that compel movement. They’re in every song; it’s just a question of how intensely they make your head move. When the band get in jackhammering mode (for example, in “Not Our Flame” and “Scorn”), you want to move it hard.
The riffs provide the backbone of the music, and Morne get a lot of mileage out of them. They loop them, over and over, driving them into your brain pan through repetition (though they do eventually introduce variations as the songs unfold). The effect can be hypnotic, or adrenaline-triggering. Either way, the technique provides a backdrop for drummer Billy Knockenhauer to put on a show, changing the tones, rhythmic patterns, and intensity of the rhythms in a way that commands attention. That technique also provides the setting for guitarists Paul Rajpal and Gassan to seed the songs with emerging leads that are soulful and searing, moaning and wailing, shimmering and incendiary.
There are some extended solos in the songs that are also monsters (which I mean in a good way). “To the Night Unknown” includes a feverish performance that segues into a sinuous yet searing cry; the shrieking, spiraling one in “Scorn” becomes so relentlessly intense that it gave me goosebumps; the one in “Night Awaits the Dawn” transforms into a squalling, bluesy, psychedelic thing which propels the song to a near-apocalyptic crescendo.
Morne push and pull the power and tempo across the breadth of the album, but whether they’re doling out slow, suffocating expressions of agony (“Show Your Wounds”), engaging in bouts of brutish punishment (“Shadowed Road”), or fracturing pavements in those jackhammering sessions mentioned earlier, this isn’t the kind of music you seek out if you’re looking for happy endings. The dual guitar harmony that surfaces in the final track, “Surrendering Fear”, has an almost hopeful feeling, but as the album closes, that harmony becomes more subdued, more aching, more desolate. The final lyrics, delivered in a voice of pure suffering, provide this farewell:
Walk away, walk toward the night’s sky
You’ve come, you’ve come undone
Mourn your loss
And don’t look back now
You’ve come, you’ve come undone
The full stream of the album is below. It will be released on September 7th by Armageddon and by the band’s own label, MORNE Records, in double vinyl, CD, and digital formats. It was recorded at New Alliance Audio Productions by Jon Taft (Since The Flood, On The Might Of Princes), mixed by Jon Taft and Morne, mastered at Audiosiege by Brad Boatright (Mournful Congregation, Abstracter, Integrity, Obituary), and includes the photography and design of Hillarie Jason.