Every now and then, a record comes along which surprises, stops you in your tracks, and transports you elsewhere. This is one of those albums. Marrowfields are an outfit that has delicately blended atmospheric doom with black metal elements in a way that presents us with a new approach to doom metal; And their debut, Metamorphoses, which releases on April 24th via Black Lion Records, is just incredible. Here’s what we thought of their first full-length.
The element which grips immediately upon opening up Metamorphoses is the delicate force of emotion and meaning behind every note. Ken Gillis’ vocal bellows share the stories of the punishment of mankind and allegories of gods in a way that demands respect and full attention, aiding the immersion to an already expansive and enveloping piece. “The Flood” demonstrates this well, as Gillis begins his tales in a declaring manner and is supported by the gargantuan stomp of AJ Grimes’ drumbeats and the force of Brandon Green and Josh Moran’s riffs. There’s an immediate sense of power within the despair and sorrowful emotions weeping from the instrumentals that grip and explain that Metamorphoses is going to be a journey worth embarking upon.
Most atmospheric doom resides within a similar tempo throughout and, as a result, can become rather swamp-like and monotonous. Marrowfields break that concern with their switching of time signatures which inject elements of hope and triumph to their melancholic and crushing doom sound, not to mention their incorporation of black metal blast beats which create a striking soundscape. “Crow and Raven”’s down-tempo intro comprised of Gillis’ reverberating vocals and delicate guitar plucks eventually explode into crushing doom and pick up the pace while taking a traditional heavy metal approach. Their traditional doom takes in “Birth of the Liberator” infused with a marching, up-tempo charge and eventual melodies are darn effective.
The title track also sees Marrowfields playing with more progressive riffs and a wall of atmospheric black metal influence, making for a powerful wall of sound. Pile this on top of a tale woven throughout, and you have the formula for a very enticing record. After listening to the album in its entirety, there were opportunities to play around with the black metal elements they presented at points throughout Metamorphoses. This would have elaborated on its usefulness to create more expansive moments; but when they are used in the record, they work very well.
Metamorphoses’ production allows the black metal sections of Marrowfields’ sound to be presented dreamily and is able to inject a fresh sound to doom’s realms. This is mostly heard in the tales of transformation within the title track’s final act as dampened tremolo riffs and blast beats create a grandiose auditory landscape with Gillis’ powerful vocals once again being the shining torch of their emotive charge.
It’s hard to find much fault in a record which shows strong elements of innovation and clear catharsis. It’s possible to argue the introduction to “Crow and Raven” is a little long, and, as mentioned, more use of the black metal influences explored a little throughout would have given the record an extra layer of depth. We also hear Gillis in the background of the other instruments at times throughout Metamorphoses, and with a voice as dynamic and bellowing as his, it needs to be at the forefront to make it more impactful.
Metamorphoses is a compelling and encapsulating record; all the more surprising it being a debut full-length from the Rhode Island doom outfit. Its dedication to the stories of the rise and fall of mankind, and the persistent, cathartic exploration of despair and sorrow being the undercurrent that forges this journey, have allowed Marrowfields to create a truly striking 51-minute epic. Their awareness of their own emotions and their transferal from the heart to guitar or vocal cords is inspiring and makes their effort authentic and, frankly, spectacular. Immersive and drawing emotion from one moment to the next, it’s a must-listen for any atmospheric doom fan wanting something special.
Metamorphoses Track Listing:
1. The Flood
2. Crow and Raven
3. Birth of the Liberator
5. Dragged to the World Below
Run Time: 51:10
Release Date: April 24, 2020
Record Label: Black Lion Records