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Morokh - Insomnia review

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Band: Morokh
Album: Insomnia
Release date: September 2023

01. Prophecy
02. Coma
03. Hunger
04. Sacrifice
05. Paludes Mortis
06. The Way To Eternity
07. Insomnia
08. Endless Void
09. Doppelganger
10. Possessed

Over time, black metal has diversified so much from its uncompromising origins that we not only have two separate categories for ‘regular’ black and melodic black metal in the Metal Storm Awards, but also have albums spilling over into metalgaze and post-metal. On rare occasions, you get inspired albums that explore all these different niches within the genre and more, such as Morokh’s Insomnia.

The Russian band are these days very much rooted in black metal, as any hardcore influences remaining from their earlier days continue to shift further into the background. However, as the group consolidate, they also explore the confines of the genre; at different times, the sound on Insomnia could be considered to be modern black, blackened death, post-black, and even blackgaze. Rendered with a dense, powerful production, Morokh’s writing on this latest release is vicious, fierce and exhilarating.

A bit of that range emerges right from the first song, “Prophecy”. On this track, and a couple of others, I find myself inclined to compare the ballistic, demonic riffing with post-2000 Behemoth, although I would have much preferred that band’s latest effort if it had riffs as vital as those here. At the same time, Morokh are not alien to melody, and partway through, the menacing roars are replaced by a clean sung approach, which works nicely in tandem with lighter tremolos. Clean vocals do appear once or twice later on Insomnia, most extensively on “Paludes Mortis”, but their scarcity makes their impact greater in the instances when they do take over.

An early standout song is “Coma”; although there are moments of onslaught with blasts and sharp-edged riffs, Morokh also explore more atmospheric sounds, from the tom-driven opening through to the doomy midsection, while sinister tapped leads add an extra intensity to the song’s evil climax. Guitar leads are also used effectively in the closing stages of “Hunger”, adding subtle melody to a slow, brooding finale that rounds off an otherwise savage track.

It is around the halfway mark that Insomnia goes to another level, however. Nine-minute centrepiece “The Way To Eternity” allows the group to really flex those post-black muscles; despite the immediacy displayed on some other songs, there’s no urgency to rush the quiet introduction to the song, and the band are content to revel in melancholic textures for sustained periods of time as it progresses. Morokh weave some lush post-rock textures into this song, which soars beautifully at times; it’s a quite dramatic change of pace from the first half of the record, particularly with it being entirely instrumental, but a quite sumptuous one as well. The immediately following title track sustains some of the blackgaze vibes from “The Way To Eternity” (with more than a hint of George Clarke to the screeched vocals), but also some of the group’s darker brutality is also woven back in at the same time.

If I have one thing I would perhaps change about Insomnia, it would be for these more melodic sounds to be expanded outside of just “The Way To Eternity” and “Insomnia”, as they make for such a sensational back-to-back pair. However, it’s hard to complain when Morokh sound so good as a more evil black metal band. “Endless Void” in particular is delicious with its sinister tremolo hooks and grim slower trudges, which are effectively broken up by a quiet, creepy midsection. “Possessed” similarly uses dynamic contrasts to accentuate the impact of its most ferocious or dramatic moments, such as the urgent tremolo singing above the bludgeoning climax.

Insomnia is a fantastic release, one that simultaneously reminds me why I used to care about Behemoth while also showing just how compelling more evocative and atmospheric spins on black metal can be. It’s a tour de force of modern black metal sounds, and will rank highly amongst the best releases in the genre this year.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 25.09.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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