All Dead Here...

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With so many fascinating examples of groundbreaking Norwegian post-black metal innovation in existence (from Peccatum's gothic orchestrations to Green Carnation's progressive aspirations to Ulver's avant-garde unpredictability, to name but a few), it's almost understandable that Morgul's own respectable contributions would go somewhat unnoticed; but 2005's All Dead Here... provides a few additional clues as to why this is so. Courageously inventive and even quite unique for its abundant use of violins, the fifth effort by this now one-man project is almost too eclectic and restless to compose a consistent and fully satisfying musical portrait. Or not -- such daring expressions of musical art being as subjective as their components are wide-ranging, so best to describe them as clearly and objectively as possible and let the individual listener be his own jury. Hence: start-stop industrial riffs, techno beats, processed grunts, and varying shades of the aforementioned string arrangements characterize most common material like "Hategrinder," "Shackled," and opener "The Mask of Sanity" (which also features an atmospheric intro and interestingly muted, intermittent lone bass pauses); "The Need to Kill" alternates almost conventional blastbeat black metal with clean-voiced gothic passages; the title track collides the digital and the analog with its mechanical riffs, refreshingly acoustic middle section, and distinctive violin figures; and, arguably representing all of this exploration at its apex, "Sanctus Perversum" comprises a beautifully panoramic soundscape orchestrating keyboards, strings, and all manner of doomy power chords to go with Jack D. Ripper lacerated screeches. A one-minute violin coda then appears to signal the album's conclusion, but stashed away in the wings behind a ten-minute silence (but at least announced in the track listing) comes an excellent parting shot named "Empty," which illustrates black metal's potential for hit single simplicity as well as anything those better known artists have achieved themselves. Whether this suggests Morgul's next evolutionary step is anyone's guest (probably even Ripper can't tell), but there's little doubt it will continue to polarize listeners at every turn.

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