Review Summary: Morne have set themselves apart with the beyond-sludge elements of their music and crafted an imperfect, but thoroughly entertaining album.Asylum
is the second full length album from sludgy post metallers Morne. Despite their crust punk and sludge influences, Morne’s sound is crisp and clean cut for the genre; bottom heavy, but not drowned in post-metal fuzz. Asylum
does feature sludge: properly down tuned guitars, and vocals consisting of nothing but a monotone roar. However, what is going on around these basic elements is a little more difficult to pigeonhole.
opens with a megalithic 17-minute-plus title track. Having attended the Agalloch
School of 17 Minute Song Writing (Fig 1. ‘Black Lake Nidstang’), Morne present a song that can be deconstructed into movements after precious few listens, a virtue that many songs of such length lack. Like genre-mates Cult of Luna
, the majority of riffs on Asylum
are immediate and, dare I say, catchy. While the vocals are unremarkable throughout the album, they aren’t off-putting once the lines commit themselves to the listener’s memory.
Where Morne succeed is not only the tight song structures, but the great touches they add to their baseline sound throughout Asylum
. Piano accents abound, synthesizers hum, and a couple of well executed guitar solos kick in at the right times. Some of the songs are very traditional, such as the verse/chorus format of ‘Killing Fields’. Others, such as ‘Edge of the Sky’ romp about, only to dissolve into relative calm where mournful clean guitar leads adorn post-rock musings.
The centerpiece of the album, two tracks running at approximately twenty total minutes, contains some of Morne’s best material to date. Highlights include the crusty guitar solo that caps off ‘Nothing to Remain’, and the driving guitar attack of ‘I Will See You’. However, as good as these tracks are, it would have been easy to trim them to a more manageable 7 to 8 minutes. Morne is very patient at times, which is a good trait for a band that plays this style of music, but perhaps too patient at others. Although the songs on Asylum
are not terribly ‘progressive’, that isn’t to say they don’t mutate at all.
The elephant in the room of the bunch would be the album’s closer, ‘Volition.’ It is a collaboration that features Jarboe on vocals and Kris Force of Amber Asylum
on Cello, Viola, and Violin (Presumably all at once!). ‘Volition’ is sparse, utilizing simple piano phrases and some forlorn strings for the majority of its length. It is a haunting vocal melody reminiscent of Jessica Kinney’s contributions to Wolves in the Throne Room
’s Two Hunters
, albeit less grandiose. However, it does share a lack of traditional structure. The five plus minutes the two ladies contribute to Asylum
are challenging, but they are fragile and hard to ignore.
In the context of the album, ‘Volition’ is a hit or miss conclusion. The sludge-storm of a riff that wraps up Asylum
pales in comparison to the devious penultimate track, ‘My Return’. While the finale is noisy, ‘My Return’ swirls about in a delightfully sinister muck that makes it the winner in the end. It is the track on Asylum that puts the least emphasis on vocal sections, except for the effect they leave on the track once they fade away. By the time the spiraling outro almost literally drowns itself, the listener is as close to Asylum as they will get.
While the album as a whole over-runs its welcome by a few minutes here and there, most of the tracks don't stagnate. Memorable, and at times, beautiful guitar lines weave in and out of the riff colossus. Asylum
succeeds thanks to the accessible and accomplished songwriting, and effective use of accent instruments. There may be a few stray Oceanic
riffs buried in these songs, but with Asylum
Morne have set themselves apart with the other elements of their music and crafted an imperfect, but thoroughly entertaining album.