Album Title: In Turbulence
Label: Ghost Sound Media
Date of Release: 23 April 2021
If ever there was an apt album title, it’s this. ‘In Turbulence’ easily describes the history of a band that have suffered an inordinate amount over the years. The fact that Morrigu are still together and still producing music is a major feat, as others may have easily thrown in the towel by now. For those unfamiliar with the Swiss band’s history, founding members Severin and Mirko Binder formed Morrigu way back in 1999 but due to record label issues and the need to effectively rebuild the band not once but twice, they have only released three full-length albums in that time. ‘In Turbulence’ however, is their fourth release coming a mere seven years after ‘Before Light/After Dark’.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Morrigu were still in existence until I received an email from Severin himself offering me a chance to listen and review this new record. Naturally, I jumped at the chance, even though my knowledge of the band was a little hazy and patchy to say the least. The fact that this email arrived early in 2021 has meant that I’ve had the pleasure of its company for several months, time where I have got to know the music on ‘In Turbulence’ much more intimately than I normally would with other album reviews.
Beginning life as more of a death/doom metal band, ‘In Turbulence’ demonstrates a further advancement of their evolution into a much more subtle, nuanced, and if I may say, engaging entity. This record may only last for 34 minutes but it is a wonderfully entertaining 34 minutes, packed full of a myriad of different styles and sounds. But despite the variety, which is a big plus point as far as I’m concerned, the eight tracks flow nicely, with nothing sounding out of place or jarring. In fact, ‘In Turbulence’ is a remarkably homogenous and smooth affair that is easily digestible from start to finish time and time again. I am yet to tire of it and I am still finding new things to enjoy after the better part of four months listening to it.
In many ways, the dissolution of the band in 2017 may have been a blessing in disguise because guitarist Severin and bassist Mirko were able to employ the services of various guest musicians over the four long years that it took to bring ‘In Turbulence’ into existence. Most notable is the inclusion of vocalist Ricardo Borges, Adrian Erlandsson (At The Gates) on the drums, as well as Alektra Amber, who the band hired to sing on a couple of the tracks. Backed up by a clear and powerful production, courtesy of Erlandsson’s help with the drum sound, engineering by Jakob Hermann at Top Floor Studios and a Jens Bogren master, ‘In Turbulence’ is, without any doubt, their most accomplished release to date. If this doesn’t help to propel the band forward, I don’t know what will.
So what of the songs themselves? Well, the band waste no time in their attempt to capture your immediate attention. ‘Our World Collides’ is first up and so instant is the impact that it’s almost a little disorienting at first; it hits so hard that you think the band might have pressed record a little late! But the opening riff, commanding drumming, instant melodic intent, and deep gruff vocals from Borges makes for an intense beginning. The song then settles down a little after a flamboyant drum fill, before Alektra Amber enters for the first time with her rich, sonorous voice. She floats above a churning riff initially but the chorus of sorts is where the magic really happens. In comes a violin to compliment a chugging, stop-start guitar riff and alongside Amber, delivers a beautiful melodic hook that has been stuck in my head since I first heard it. A delicate guitar solo atop a moment of atmospheric respite demonstrates Morrigu’s softer side before they see out the song with Borges’ aggressive vocals at its heart.
The band namecheck the likes of Amorphis, Dark Tranquillity and Evergrey when referencing their music. And whilst these comparisons are not without merit, I also hear flashes of Katatonia, Textures, and others within their songs on ‘In Turbulence’ too. This is a dark and heavy record make no mistake. But there is plenty of melody, plenty of subtlety, and plenty of contrast too.
‘In The Shade’ follows the opener and after a quick intro, we’re greeted with more commanding musicianship across the band, Borges snarling over the top as he does best, his voice perfectly suited to the music landscape that surrounds him. The song benefits from more violin embellishments as well as ethereal, ghostly female vocals, and delicate piano notes that cut through more muscular riffs. The contemplative, quiet section featuring just guitar and piano is gorgeous as is the ensuing violin melody that adds a folk-like whimsy to the melancholy composition which is seen out by beautiful lead guitar lines and incredibly strong, technical drumming.
The Textures reference can be heard in the opening progressive-sounding riff of ‘Blinded By The Artificial Light’, complimented by some clean singing from, I believe, Erlandsson. Whoever it is, it soars beautifully over the staccato rhythms and the elegant melodies that continue when the growled vocals return. The song then almost stops and changes tack at the half-way mark, revealing more sensitive clean male vocals that croon wonderfully over a minimal keyboard melody before the entire band join to continue the anthemic nature of the song.
By this point, you can probably tell quite clearly that I like this record. And the enjoyment continues apace across the remaining five tracks on ‘In Turbulence’. There isn’t a weak track amongst them if truth be told and the album flies by in no time at all.
‘Crowned By Your Fear’ kicks off with a rather groovy central riff before a Katatonia-esque discordant note or three catches my ear. It’s a slower number, churning and writhing whilst Borges’ voice hits some of the lowest notes anywhere on ‘In Turbulence’. ‘Eternal Darkness’ begins with an immediately arresting intro melody and later in the track, the band indulge in a spoken-word section, shrouded with dark cinematic atmosphere. It shouldn’t work but by damn it does.
One of the catchiest of all the tracks to my ears is ‘Omnia’. It starts off with a beautiful melody and then veers into a piano and electronics section upon which Elektra Amber reappears, duetting with the growls absolutely brilliantly. If I’m not mistaken, there’s a hint of Gothic theatre within the textures of the song too, just to add yet another new ingredient to the mix. It also helps to demonstrate another point that I wanted to make, that Morrigu have created an album that sounds really quite modern, fresh and relevant on top of everything else.
The opening riff of ‘The King Of Thieves’ calls to mind one of Hypocrisy’s slower pieces, particularly with the chosen guitar tones. Again, it is heavy and abrasive whilst also producing some delicate, poignant moments, demonstrated when the song falls away abruptly to be replaced by the sound of rainfall, thunder, and simple piano notes. When the full force of the song re-emerges, it is with the most glorious, anthemic melody, bittersweet in tone and feel, the violin playing the solemn lead.
‘A Funeral Of Liberty’ is the one remaining song to touch upon, and it’s much of the same and I mean that in the best of ways. It’s a powerful track, but also varied, with plenty of twists in its relatively short run-time, including hints of Middle-Eastern melody predominantly via the female voice that lights up the mid-section of the song.
Not for the first time this year, a dark horse of a record has stolen my heart and my admiration. Morrigu have battled hard, put their troubles behind them and come out with a knock-out blow in the form of ‘In Turbulence’. Yes, I might have wanted it to last longer, yes I might have wanted another couple of songs or for the odd section within a song to be extended. But that just demonstrates how much I like the music on this album. If you’re a fan of varied music that’s both heavy and soft, harsh and beautiful, then ‘In Turbulence’ is an absolute must-buy. I absolutely love this album and I cannot conceive of a reality where it doesn’t feature in my best-of list at the end of the year.
The Score of Much Metal: 92%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: