The Morningside
The Wind, The Trees, The Shadow of the Past

The Morningside hail from Russia and play a relaxed, melancholic brand of melodic death/doom. Brave Murder Day-era Katatonia and Morningrise-era Opeth immediately come to mind – not surprising, considering these bands are listed as influences. Aside from albums like Rapture’s Futile and some aspects of earlier Agalloch, this particular sound seems to be rare, so discovering this album was a real pleasure.

Aside from an atmospheric intro and outro to set the mood, The Wind, The Trees, The Shadow of the Past consists of three longish songs, each one clocking in at or above the ten-minute mark. And, in another nod to Brave Murder Day, you can pretty much guess what the song titles are – no need for track listing here.

“The Wind” kicks off with a pleasantly crunchy groove, and the Katatonia influence is in full force here. Some might tag it as derivative, but to me, this is all love and homage, and quite welcome. Harsh, ragged vocals join the flow for awhile, then giving way to a clean-picked acoustic guitar line as the sole voice. When a beautiful solo serpentines in, backed by a prominent bass – echoes of the mix on Morningrise – you can’t help but be carried away by the layers at work here. Gorgeous stuff.

The two other tracks take on an even more solemn, doomy mood – slower paced, and maybe not as rapturous, but not without their own beautiful, instrospective moments. It’s on these tracks that another prominent influence begins to surface – The Cure, specifically during their Disintegration/Wish era. This is most noticeable in the shimmering, plaintive lead guitar work, but also in the more pensive mood that settles in. Just relax and get carried away.

Clean vocals come in during “The Shadows of the Past,” and this is the one area the album stumbles out of its reverie. While not bad by any means, the vocals are a bit tremulous and awkward, largely due to the heavily accented delivery. Hearing them in Russian would have been more evocative and exotic (except of course, if you’re Russian).

There’s nothing terribly threatening or intense about The Morningside, but that’s not the point – in fact, if you removed the harsh vocals altogether, these songs would be palatable to a pretty wide range of listeners. Of course, those of us that love and are accustomed to this type of vocals find nothing distressing about them in the first place.

The Morningside are offering the entire album to download for free at their site – well worth grabbing if any of the above bands appeal to you. This is satisfying enough to order a copy of the album, though, and is one of the nicer gems I’ve stumbled across this year.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
May 3rd, 2008

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