Embracing the senses in a gothic caress of engagingly elegant shadows and rapaciously honed enterprise, Sepulchral Burden the debut album from Russian metallers Morguenstern is a potent capturing of the imagination which unerringly lures you deeper into its provocative depths the more you entertain its dark temptations. Seemingly tagged more often as a horror-punk/gothic metal like proposition, the inventive quintet definitely upon their new release explore the latter of the flavours, an eighties breath as rich as the sonic colour and uncompromising undercurrent of intimidation which prowling each and every song. The album is a riveting fascination of Poe-esque drama and fiery metal passion wrapped in mouthwatering weaves of guitar and keys adventure led by acutely seductive vocals.
Formed in 1999 by Morgana (vocals, keys, music and lyrics) aided by her brother Morok (guitar, back vocals) of Bog-Morok, Shexna, Downgrade, and Vo Skorbyah, Morguenstern recorded the demo Blood that same year before expanding with the addition of drummer Dan Sobolev (ex-Bog-Morok, ex- OPRICH ) and bassist Alexei Fominsky (ex-Bog-Morok, ex- Smuta) in 2000. After playing many successful shows the project was suspended in 2001 but now returns in striking form with the GlobMetal Records released Sepulchral Burden. Consisting of bassist Penguin and drummer Vladimir alongside Morgana and Morok with Smeat providing samples and backing vocals, the band unleashes tales of zombies, vampires, and cemeteries in a release which certainly wakes up the imagination.
We will get the main niggle about the album out of the way before entering its body, and that is the fact that the lyrical delivery comes solely in Russian, not normally a problem but with tracks full of aural intrigue and adventure, being unable to enjoy that aspect due to limited linguistic skills does frustrate throughout. Nevertheless the album easily steals attention and breeds an eager appetite for its suggestive climate starting with С Новым Гробом (Happy New Coffin). A gothic organ makes the first incitement on the ears soon joined by a cinematic sample and an increasingly darkening ambience. It is a menacing coaxing which increases its threat until the song spreads into a radiant stretch of keys led melodic expression, thumping rhythms and caustic guitar strokes soaked and guided by the immediately enticing tones of Morgana. An increasingly contagious potency also flows from within the encounter, toying with electro invention and intense metallic urges within a gothic metal narrative. It all combines for a powerful and immensely persuasive start to the release.
That success is matched by the following Мертвый Храм (The Dead Temple) and Идём со мной (Come With Me), the first teasing ears with an eighties gothic pop dance within a cauldron of aggressive yet restrained predatory metal. Not for the last time on the album, the track sparks up thoughts of March Violets with its vocals and melody drenched shadows but just as strongly forges a distinct presence for itself which marks Morguenstern as different. The second of the two almost stalks the senses in its beauty, malevolence, and irresistible seduction whilst like its predecessor, fusing harsh and caustic aggression aligned to the equally intensive vocals of Morok with a bewitching melodic climate for an impressive and fluid union, the resulting web if sound incendiary for the imagination.
Another big aspect of the album is the variety brought into the songs under the constant gothic cloak, next up Тяжесть Могильная (Sepulchral Burden) for example exploring heavier mausoleum like atmospheres compared to the more intensive night aired sceneries of earlier songs, and though the melodic and heavy metal lilted track does not emulate the heights of those songs, it offers a refreshing twist in the melodrama of the album’s theme. Both the sultrily tempting Соната (Sonata) and the moonlight radiant Последний Путь (The Last Journey) provide further adventurous sounds and endeavour, the mesmeric vocals of Morgana washing around the senses as infectiously as the electronic and electrified enterprise courting her almost siren like tempting. The pair are like atmospheric magnets on thoughts and emotions, both increasing the undeniable lure of Sepulchral Burden.
Кровь (Blood) is the next highlight to dramatically seize a rapturous response, its carnivorous voice of riffs and bass snarling imperiously away within the vampiric radiance of the keys and the suggestively masked lyrical suasion. It is a masterful platform for the imagination to play upon even without the aid of understanding its words, painting an evocative and colourful realm for thoughts to devour and expand within. That is a trait you can attribute to all songs to be fair with an even greater mastery to be found in the next up До Свидания (Farewell) with its sonically poetic jeopardy and the vampire heralding Нечеловек (Inhuman). The second of the two sculpts a merger of almost punk bred metal and sonic savagery tempered by the ever crystalline tones of Morgana magnificent creating another pinnacle on the album.
The quality and evolving might of the album continues through the likes of Came from Ад (Came from Hell), a track like a few to be fair which could soundtrack any classical gothic and noir driven horror movie, the tantalising Пустые Глазницы (Empty Eyesockets) where the melodic and piano sculpted resplendence comes with a haunted voice, and the brilliant electro driven Morguenstern with its glorious Middle Eastern adventure and uncompromising antagonistic predation. All three leave ears and passions with a healthy want for more which the closing Отдай Свой Разум (Give Away Your Mind) supplies in a final ravaging of air and sound, its gothic landscape ripe with exhausting energy and mischievous rabidity to create a last great twist in the album’s invention with male vocal furies leading the towering charge.
It is an outstanding end to an equally tremendous release which just grows over each subsequent journey through its exciting dangers for increasing success. Featuring guest vocals from Alex Raymar (Desert), Sam (Enemy Pain), Nybras (Iconoclast), Sherman (Bog-Morok and Shexna), and Dirty Scoundrel (Ministry of Truth), it is only the mystery of the lyrical content with provides any ‘annoyance’ on Sepulchral Burden, the album an expansive and immersive gothic romance of terror within which Morguenstern offers very tempting rewards.
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