The Morningside - _Letters From the Empty Towns_
(BadMoodMan Music, 2014)
by: Chaim Drishner (8 out of 10)
It's amazing how a band can reinvent itself and be reborn as a total different musical entity. Case in point: The Morningside. Those who are familiar with the band's debut album _The Wind, the Trees and the Shadows of the Past_ would surely remember it was one of the most inoffensive, pedestrian and rehashed offerings of 2007; an album that has made me lose all interest in the band's future endeavors.

Then came _Letters From the Empty Towns_ and reshuffled the cards. From the get-go, will you realize the band has changed its attitude 180 degrees; from that mellow, flimsy, second-tier, doom-oriented version of Agalloch (sans their greatness), a beast has arisen, a vast and powerful entity of scorn and hate that is nothing like what it was seven years ago. _Letters From the Empty Towns_ presents a vile, thrashing monster with great, catchy songs, a theatrical performance and sweeping aggression that will take you by surprise and bolt you to your chair for one crazy ride.

The Morningside has adopted a sharp, edgy, treble-heavy sound that is very much akin to the aesthetic of latter-day Carcass (think of the rhythm guitar sections of _Swansong_ in particular); but the band couples that approach with some excellent melodic death metal paradigms that are more than reminiscent of Death's 1998 swansong -- the phenomenal _The Sound of Perseverance_. In fact, some riffs, or sections of riffs, seem to have been almost plagiarized from that album. But rest assured, this album is eventually a unique voice and pretty much straightforward, neglecting most of Death's brand of technical metal and instead investing more in melody and great guitar leads.

The many guitar parts -- leads, solos, a whole string charade -- lend the music a somewhat cinematic, theatrical, even avant-garde flair of sorts, and when those dark-cabaret / circus elements coalesce with the raspy vocals, you may think you're actually listening to the next Sigh album, as there's a lot of (probably unconscious) influence going on in _Letters From the Empty Towns_, especially if you refer to Sigh's last three studio albums.

The album has many positive points and enough a character to dodge any blatant copycat charges. The writing ability is elevated and very easy to relate to; some of the riffs are simply divine and exhilarating; the production is diamond-sharp, crisp and crystal clear, and the vocalist gives one of the most vitriolic performances a recording can endure.

_Letters From the Empty Towns_ is a story about urban decay and disturbed existentialism in a crumbling, cold post-modern world obsessed with technology; it is about the longing for some peace of mind and quiet in a constantly noisy, troubled world. You'd find it pretty easy to relate to those texts if you were conscious enough and aware of the human condition in the context of a money-obsessed, desensitized, technology-driven society that has long since neglected the simple joys of life, detached from the natural world, congregating in mega-cities that are crumbling and in the process eradicating the soul.

This album portrays those sentiments so well, using fierce quality texts that pierce with their brutal truths; a clarion call by the contemporary heralds of doom. The Carcass / Death / Sigh references add both aggression and sophistication to the message and the extra unique ingredients, like the fine guitar leads, the acoustic guitar-driven folk rock insinuations and the sublime catchy songs that mix both hostility and melody into a complete and perfect display of power and beauty -- make this album one of the most rewarding listening experiences of 2014; a tour-de-force of melancholic introspection and acute angst toward the human condition.

"Stop shouting in my ear! Hey, blockheads, do you all here ever shut up? I'd like to hear my thoughts."


(article published 13/11/2014)

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