From the frontman and guitar virtuoso of Bloodshot Dawn, Josh McMorran, comes Forlorn World, his artistic expression of a more melodic death metal-focused release in the shape of debut album, Umbra. Seeking to explore new realms of his repertoire without the weight of expectation of his main musical outlet, an epic narrative plot driven by soaring guitar and a blend of clean and harsh vocals is promised in seven tracks clocking in just under 30 minutes.

Wearing its heart on its sleeve right from the off, and throughout the album’s entire length, Umbra is unashamedly and heavily influenced by the work of Scar Symmetry – add a few Per Nilsson flourishes here and there and, instrumentally, the tracks wouldn’t feel out of place on Dark Matter Dimensions or The Unseen Empire. McMorran’s riff writing has always been of the utmost quality and hitting so close to self-admitted influences cannot be seen as a bad thing for the release; whilst not carving its own unique niche in the genre the music does land close to what one would expect from a melodeath album of this type.

The blistering guitar solos, handled either by McMorran himself or one of the many guests (such as Fleshgod Apocalypse’s Francesco Paoli), are a true standout on the record in terms of musical ability – however, they can sometimes detract as well, with the demonstration of musical chops occasionally seeming to take precedent over focusing on the “melodic” element of the genre. It’s where the tempo slows and blastbeats take a backseat in the groovier parts of tracks where the listener can enjoy the album most – the later parts in “Traveller” standing out for this in particular.

Clean vocals are something which many wouldn’t have known McMorran had in his locker – and, quite simply, they should have stayed therein locked up. Whilst roars are consummate and fit the genre equally as well as they do his heavier work in Bloodshot Dawn, here the cleans suck the life and energy from each track. At their best points, the cleans are somewhat flat but tolerable (“The Shadowmancer”); at their worst they are borderline unlistenable (“March into Void”) and it’s quite staggering how such an established musician is satisfied to release a record with these included.

On the whole, Umbra feels like what it is – a debut album – hitting some strong points (general instrumentation, polish and tone) but lacking in some key areas of quality. The balance required for the genre feels somewhat lacking, as mentioned with the solos, and the clean vocals are a sadly unforgivable drawback to the album’s re-listenability. A guest vocalist and a musical partner to apply some brakes to the faster segments could have elevated the release to being a brief but solid album, but, unfortunately, in its current state it’s unlikely to make a dent in a genre already blessed with depth and breadth of quality.

Umbra Track Listing:

1. Moving Mountains
2. The Shadowmancer
3. Before the End
4. March into Void
5. Traveller
6. Pillars of Eternity
7. Umbra

Run Time: 29:35
Release Date: October 30, 2020
Record Label: Self-Released

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