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The Morningside : Treelogia

Whichever influences The Morningside have intentionally or accidentally brought together, the end result is truly emotive.

The Morningside emerged from Russia in 2007 with full-length release ’The Wind, The Trees And The Shadows Of The Past’. Reviewers in the doom/death community pounced immediately (and not without good reason) on their striking similarity to both Katatonia and Agalloch. Interestingly, it was also picked up elsewhere in the rock world as an almost pure prog/post album. Regardless of the review origin, though, there was a general consensus that - clone sound or not - it was actually very good.

That short history lesson is pertinent, because this release revisits the middle track of that album, "The Trees" and spins it out into a fully-fledged story of its own. Russian label Solitude Productions describe it as a CD-single lasting over 50 minutes and containing only one track, albeit split into three parts. Older folk will recognise that as, basically, what used to be called a concept album!

It's always been quite possible to take a perfectly good piece of music and ruin it by stretching it far too thinly over far too much ground - some of the worst and most indulgent rock albums ever released have done exactly that in trying to follow the concept path. Happily, ’TreeLogia’ is far from being one of those cases. The Morningside have played by all the appropriate rules. A central musical theme runs through the entire work: evolving, reprised, altered in tempo and key, but always recognisable. The lyrics of each movement link similar images of the central, unnamed, character in the depths of a mysterious forest: sketching out series of tableaux rather than telling a prosaic tale. Each part is long (between 12 and 21 minutes), complete in itself and yet still can bring an additional synergy when combined into the whole. Technically, it gets full marks for delivering the right framework.

All of which is of structural interest but does little to address what the album sounds like - it is a clear, clean, melodic twin-guitar-led sound with precise use of percussion and largely blackened, slightly harsh and hoarse vocals. Each song is built on the fusion and progression of uncluttered, individually simplistic yet elegant components, primarily constructed by the versatile guitars and occasionally fleshed-out with sparse hints of keyboard and sounds of rain, storm and burning. It unashamedly sets out to capture and manipulate the listener's mood and in that, it succeeds admirably. The musicianship, within a tightly-disciplined and well-integrated song structure, is exemplary and the clarity of the production deserves an honourable mention.

Unsurprisingly, given the source of the main theme, there is still more than a hint of "Brave Murder Day"-era Katatonia and "Pale Folklore"-era Agalloch in their sound. Take away the vocals, though - as is the case for much of the album's instrumental passages - and the music would stand equally valid comparison with much of the guitar-driven end of prog-rock and its descendents: those two bands, good as they are, hardly hold a monopoly on the use of liltingly melancholic and descending minor scales. There are echoes of everything from the twin-lead duelling of Wishbone Ash and the extended explorations of Porcupine Tree to Anathema's post-doom emotional tapestries and the later post-rock of Crippled Black Phoenix or Explosions In The Sky. Not that the vocals, of course, can be entirely put aside - it must be said that anyone without an appreciation of that doom/death style is likely to find them at best intrusive.

The album opens with an extended introduction on keyboard, with ambient sound woven in, riffs majestically through the first vocal interlude and fades away to a plaintive, almost regretful theme. Part two, really, is the extended remake/remix of the original "The Trees" - a lot of the rework and thematic evolution within the piece is to introduce a thread of uplifting hope and even joy into the music, before it merges into the closing thunderstorm. Against a backdrop of burning, the epic-length third part begins with heavy, tribal drumming and achingly distorted guitar, which gradually soars higher until it escapes the heart of darkness on an impassioned vocal passage. From there, clean melody lines phase into an undistorted reprise of the opening, drawing the cycle to conclusion. An invocation of season's end, and the natural order of things restored.

Whichever influences The Morningside have intentionally or accidentally brought together, the end result is truly emotive. It paints a melancholy yet hopeful soundscape in living, breathing colour with the express intent of transporting the listener to the place where the story exists. Try it. Stand in their twilit autumn forest with the cold rain falling and decide for yourself what stark beauty may still be found in the coming winter. Personally, I think there's plenty.

Reviewer's rating: 10/10


Tracklist :
1. The Trees Part One
2. The Trees Part Two
3. The Trees Part Three - TreeLogia

Duration : Approx. 47 minutes

Visit the The Morningside bandpage.

Reviewed on 2011-08-30 by Mike Liassides
Rotten Copper
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