There’s heavy, and then there’s heavy. Morne are the latter. If you don’t know the difference, you will after listening to To the Night Unknown, the Boston band’s fourth album. To be honest, I wasn’t previously familiar with this group, nor have we reviewed any of their older material here at AMG, but after letting To the Night Unknown melt my speakers and put cracks in my walls for a few weeks, I’ll be exploring their back-catalog tout suite.
This is crushing, extreme doom with sludge and crust elements embedded throughout. Thick, mind-melting guitar tones, lowest-of-lows bass, and massive drums, along with throat-torn-out vocals, bested only by Agrimonia’s Christina Blom, dominate To the Night Unknown. Songs are built on monstrous riffs, but also features old-school metal guitar solos and subtle keyboard embellishments. Bass is a subsonic rumble, underpinning everything as if a train is passing nearby on loose tracks. In short, Morne have mastered the art of heaviness.
The title track fades in with undeniable menace, feedback-drenched guitars rattling the bottom of the snare drum with their resonance. Toms thunder in, introducing a massive riff (an overarching musical theme of the album). Just when the song can’t get any heavier, in walks Milosz Gassan, rasping as if climbing out of the very pits of hell. “To the Night Unknown” is seven and a half minutes of almost-relentless, crusty doom, until it fades out with airy acoustic guitars and synths – an odd combination, but one which Morne utilize on several songs, with layers of keyboards submerged just below the surface of our consciousness.
As if the riffs on “To the Night Unknown” weren’t big enough, here comes the epic twelve-minute track “Not Our Flame,” with its own sharp, jagged riff countered ruthlessly by Billy Knockenhauer’s1 drumming. Twelve minutes is a long time, but Morne don’t sit still here, playing with one idea. Midway through a new riff takes over, even better than the first, and a few minutes after that yet another which leads into a surprisingly tasty guitar solo. “Not Our Flame” is the song that just keeps giving and has quickly risen to the front of my Song o’ The Year list. Honestly, though, this could describe most of the songs on To the Night Unknown. “Scorn” is another that stands out, featuring the kind of riff that would be played when the vilest villain strides into the good prince’s castle, countered with a regal guitar solo and the most ominous ending on the record.
Performance-wise, this album is so solid I can’t single out any of the musicians. The guitarwork, from the riffs to the at times traditional-sounding leads from Gassan and Paul Rajpal is exemplary, Knockenhauer’s drumming rhythms and fills are immaculate, and Morgan Coe’s bass holds everything together with a thickness that should make most other bands sick with envy. Gassan’s throat-shredding vocals top it all off. The only drawback to an otherwise fantastic album is the runtime. These songs are heavy, massive, monolithic beasts that take all your psyche and destroy it in pummeling fashion, but with an album length of an hour and seven minutes, even the most dedicated listener can grow weary. If Morne had put aside two of these songs for later use, To the Night Unknown would have been even better.
It’s a small nit to pick, though, when an album is this good. Much like I said way back in the depths of January when I reviewed Agrimonia, I don’t always do extreme music, but when I do, I go in deep, and To the Night Unknown is a deeply enjoyable rush of nasty, crusty, heavy doom, so well-arranged I have a hard time moving on to my next assignment.