Label: Nebular Winter Productions
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal, Black Metal
Wahlheim is the debut record from Morar, a band shrouded in mystery by their own request. They have not publicized their names or faces, nor their location. Their response to any inquiries is that their desire is for the music to be the only focus. And their music is top-notch, especially for a debut album. It almost makes you wonder if some of their members are experienced, perhaps even well-known? Regardless, Morar has released an excellent album. Let’s dig into it!
I want to spend a moment to focus on the opening track, Embrace the Torrent, because it showcases almost everything this album has to offer and this track continues to blow me away. The song opens with the sound of rain and a single guitar picking out some notes. Drums and chanted vocals come in, similar to something Gallowbraid would do. Then the music kicks in full steam and the guitars fire up and the vocals, oh man the vocals! This frosty wail is perfect! Morar has a very stunning vocal sound, very classic in its frosty approach. However everything is still slow paced, the music is still going for an epic opening. Pretty guitar notes are picked out in the background. Then everything drops out, we pause for a breath, and then the song kicks up its speed and out comes this amazing guitar riff. This riff has me coming back again and again. I hum this riff in my day-to-day. It’s that good! But they only tease it for a moment, then pull back and return to the epic, slower sound. This is a band that knows the value of control, of not wasting a great riff too quickly. As the music gets slower, we hear a flute provide some nice atmosphere, along with some echoing clean vocals. This whole moment is very cold feeling, but before you get too frozen, the band brings the speed back up and returns to that riff! This is the climax of the song, the epic moment everything has been building towards. Now, if this were just a good band, they would end the song here. But Morar is a great band and they know the power of a good outro. So the song winds down with epic crashing cymbals and a grim sounding riff. Almost 9 minutes later, the first song is over! Phew!
Now I know what your question will be: Okay, the first song is great, but do they keep it up? This is an excellent question to ask, because some albums can feature an amazing opening song that sets the bar too high and the rest of the album seems like a letdown from then on. I am happy to report that Morar skips past this pitfall. The rest of the album is filled with songs just like Embrace the Torrent, filled with frosty vocals, some great riffs and moments, and lots of atmosphere. This album will keep your attention the whole way through. They control the pacing a bit by placing an interlude track right in the middle, which demonstrates attention to the album as a whole, rather than placing the focus just on the songs.
Morar is a bit of a difficult band to place in a specific genre. Sometimes I want to place them in atmospheric black, because things are very atmospheric and steeped in that feeling. But then again, the band has a fury and sound that is very reminiscent of classic second-wave bands, although the production value is much better. There are little folk moments and little nods to Viking metal, but the music doesn’t lean very hard in that direction, aside from its epic pace. Morar seems to be very aware of all the various forms of black metal around, and seems to pick and choose elements from them. Like I said, it’s a very impressive debut. Do yourself a favour and check out Wahlheim as soon as you can!
Get it on Bandcamp: https://morar.bandcamp.com/album/wahlheim