UK emokrust collective Morrow dropped a massive debut on my lap in 2016 in the form of Covenant of Teeth, an engrossing 4-song album that told a tale of a futuristic society where Earth was so ravaged by humankind’s assault of its natural resources that they became tribal again. The marriage of poetic lyrics, visceral vocals, and a sad-yet-ragingly-defiant musical backdrop lingered in my psyche long after my review was published. In fact, truth be told, it’s all I listened to this past Christmas season, not only to keep my mind occupied and my energy maintained, but also because the follow-up, Fallow, was due to drop in the spring of this year. So imagine my surprise when Fallow was released as a “name your price” release on the band’s Bandcamp over Christmas Eve last year, with a physical release soon. Yes, I’ve been listening to this album since then. Should be an easy review to write, yes?
You would think so. Not that the music has lost any power (it hasn’t) or the lyrics have become trite and pretentious (again, no). Rather, how does one properly describe music that grabs at your core and refuses to let go? Retaining their crust punk ethos and expert use of violins and cello, Morrow have started to condense a couple of tunes without once losing impact of their message, while adding a slight curveball or two along the way. “The Hunt” proves this by marrying their trademark sound with cues from Converge and modern-day Zao, all at a hair under four minutes. Once again, though, it’s their longer epics that elevate Fallow (and Morrow) to powerful heights. “Auguries of Menace” and “Crown in Red” bookend the album powerfully, both extending past 11 minutes, but make every second feel emotionally draining and powerful throughout, with the former containing some of the band’s most raucous performances, and the latter becoming the most sorrowful.
As powerful as the music is, the vocals and lyrics push Fallow even further. Much like Covenant before it, Fallow continues the story of humanity 3000 years into the future, following the tribe from Covenant, the Norr, leaving their home in the now-exhausted forest to venture into the desert, hoping to salvage some level of peace. Written with some nods to their amazing debut (“Do you still/smile for us/old forgiving grin?” from “Beyond the Cleaved Land”), vocalist/lyricist Alex CF once again deftly crafts a vivid painting of a seemingly doomed tribe, made the more colorful by his visceral performance, as well as the guest vocals from bands such as Fall of Efrafa, Wildspeaker, and Autarch, among others. Each voice channels the tribe’s hope and sadness in equal measures, resulting in a powerfully captivating overall package.
Soundwise, Fallow doesn’t deviate much from the formula laid down on Covenant. The guitars and bass remain grimy and dirty, fitting in beautifully with the album’s theme while the drums retain their thunderous might. The violins and cello cut through the mire, almost like a beam of light through an oppressive fog. If there was a slight flaw to be had with Fallow, it would be with the use of stringed instruments. Compared to Covenant, the melodies laid out on Fallow by the violins and cello aren’t nearly as prominent, or as varied. They oftentimes feel like they’re following the same lines and motifs repeatedly. Otherwise, like the best of stories, Fallow expertly progresses the story laid out beautifully by Covenant before it.
So, I guess the problem I had with writing about Fallow was not in how to convey the power of Morrow‘s music, but rather the impact it has, or the message behind it. Fallow has proven that, no matter how dark and dire things get, you see things through to the end, bitter or otherwise. It’s not hard to relate to that message, and that’s why I connected so strongly to both Fallow and Morrow. I made the mistake of not including Covenant of Teeth on my Top Ten(ish) two years ago, and that same mistake won’t be repeated, even if it came out last year after the lists were published. Fallow is worthy of both your money and attention.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: v0 mp3
Label: Alerta Antifascista Records (Europe) | Halo of Flies (North America)
Websites: morrowpunx.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/morrowpunx
Release Dates: 24.12.2017 (digital) | 09.06.2018 (Europe) | 04.01.2018 (NA)