Artist: The Morningside
Label: BadMoodMan Music
Genre: Atmospheric Doom
Yellow is the fourth album from Russian melancholic doom metal act The Morningside. I have been following The Morningside ever since hearing their wonderful debut, The Wind, the Trees and the Shadows of the Past, a beautiful love letter to nature seen through the eyes of dour Russians.
Unfortunately, nothing has ever lived up to what The Wind… was; their sophomore album, Moving Crosscurrent of Time, was decent, but it did not grab me in the same way. After a five year silence, two years ago, The Morningside released their third album, and I was extremely excited, having ample time for The Wind… to achieve legendary status in my mind. Letters From the Empty Towns, however, almost crushed my interest in the band. I don’t know what happened with that album, but it fell extremely flat, not only for myself but many of the band’s long-time fans. The shift in their iconic sound was ill-founded, and resulted in something that felt soulless.
And here we are, just two short years later, with the band’s response. To be honest, when I first saw the album cover and read the album title, I was sure that this would be another foray into the territory that made Letters… such a let-down. I even stopped listening after hearing the first song. It didn’t grab me, and so I moved on. Happily, some other fans assured me that The Morningside had returned to their earlier sounds and the album was a true follow-up to their first two. And they were exactly correct about that. Yellow is what I have been waiting for from The Morningside.
I mentioned that the first song did not impress me on my first listen, and now I must ruefully tell you that it is perhaps my favourite song on the album. “To The Last Point…” opens Yellow with a completely instrumental piece, one that if I’d have been paying attention properly, would have alerted me to what this album would contain. If you know The Morningside, you too will hear echoes of “The Shadows of the Past” from their debut. The first few notes of “To the Last Point…” seem to directly reference that song, but only for a few bars before quietly transforming it into a new melody. It’s beautiful and I think the reference demonstrates a depth of self-awareness in The Morningside.
As the album continues, the band adds more of the elements that make them who they are. The second song “As A Pilgrim”, brings in their unique harsh vocals, which could be explained as black metal vocals, although they are more like a high-pitched snarl. “As A Pilgrim” also changes the guitar tone to one more characteristic of the band’s previous work, almost sounding like they could be from a classic rock band. The way The Morningside pairs this “old fashioned” sounding guitar with their higher picked notes that normally soar over a song has always appealed to me. It is only on the fourth song, “Missing Day”, that they finally bring out their clean vocals, one of key pieces in The Morningside’s melancholic sound. The mild accent on the English lyrics works perfectly for me; I always love it when I can hear the accent of a person while they sing.
My main complaint is that the album is far too short. I feel like they had much more they wanted to put into this album, and that there could have been so much more. The final two songs “Clocks” and “…Then He Walked” are shorter and pack less punch than what preceded them, leaving the album to kind of drift off quietly. “…Then He Walked” is brilliant, don’t get me wrong. It’s an instrumental jam that has something that I’ve always loved from The Morningside, kind of an extended guitar solo that lasts a really long time, it’s just clean notes piled up on top of the other and it’s a very great ending. But it’s the kind of ending that leaves you unsatisfied because you need more, so you end up starting the album from the beginning again.
I am really surprised and delighted with Yellow. It really does take me back and I think this is the sound that The Morningside excels at. I don’t know how the wider audience feels, but for me, more of this please!
Grab it on bandcamp: https://themorningside.bandcamp.com/album/yellow