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Morwinyon – Pristine

by Ian Yeara at 01 November 2020, 2:09 PM

Even though it’s only been 7 years, it feels like I’ve been listening to Atmospheric Black Metal for a lifetime. We all know the Black Metal stereotypes and cliches about edgelords burning down churches and the occasional murder among other inter band conflicts. My point being is that Black Metal as a genre is rife with disturbing trends and lots of baggage in general and yet what I love about Atmospheric Black Metal is that I basically get to throw most of that baggage out the window. Not just because this kind of Atmospheric Black Metal has almost nothing to do with the more straightforward second wave of Black Metal, but because it’s built on a strong foundation of antifascists, paganism and nature worship, rather than satanism, anti-christian sentiments and demonic cult aesthetic.

The best Atmospheric Black Metal seems to be coming from the most peculiar of places, from Kentucky, Utah, Austria, France and in recent years Italy seems to have taken center stage in this dare I call it new wave of Atmospheric Black Metal. MORWINYON from Italy joins a pretty solid crowd of Atmospheric Black Metallers such as EMYN MUIL, BLAZE OF SORROW, EARTH AND PILLARS, and of course PROGENIE TERRESTRE PURA and aside from EMYN MUIL all of these bands have similar lyrical content.

One of the core tenets of this kind of Black Metal I would argue is about the beauty and majesty of nature. The cover art depicting a tiny village in a dark forest at the base of some mountains is very evocative and it makes me think of all the times I decided to go for a walk in the woods and just enjoy nature. The music itself here evokes all the feelings and wonder of going on a journey through the woods and up the mountain, maybe you have a specific goal in mind, or maybe you want to climb the mountain just because it’s there.

Regardless this album perfectly captures the beauty of such a setting and perhaps just a touch of melancholy. Sorrow for the natural world that slowly but surely retreats all around us as the fires of Industry slowly but surely encompass the entire earth. The name of this album, "Pristine" says it all; there are so few pristine reserves of nature left in the world and the ones that aren’t protected by governments and regulation will all be gobbled up by material greed if we don’t do something.

I love Black Metal like this, full of hope and optimism, rather than just focusing on darkness and despair. The guitars and strings constantly create this wonderful soundscape of uplifting harmony juxtaposed against harsh vocals and the occasional metal riff that peaks it’s head above the canopy.

It reminds me of Return of the King, that moment when Sam and Frodo are walking across the Gorgoroth plain towards Mount Doom and Sam tells Frodo to look up at the sky and see that amidst the smoke and ash, far above you can see a glimmer of starlight, and while it’s not much it’s evidence that beyond all the evil and despair they find themselves in, there’s still hope and beauty left in the world. That is exactly the feeling this music evokes from me. I know I’m not discussing the individual songs yet, but when you’ve only got four songs and three of them are 10+ minutes, it’s easier to talk about the sound of the album as an aggregate.

There’s not a lot of harmonic variety in this, but there really doesn’t need to be, MORWINYON has found a sound they like and they’re just doing whatever they can to frame that sound in different ways. This is definitely the kind of album that should be heard all at once to gain full appreciation of what the band is doing.

To get a little more specific what the band is doing to elicit these feelings out of the listener is with a little modular composition. This whole album is based on a bunch of different Lydian scales and what’s neat about it is the Lydian scale is really close to a Major scale, just with a raised fourth which gives them room for sorrow and melancholy amidst the hope and beauty (this is still Black Metal after all). When you raise that fourth, you’re introducing a tritone into the otherwise happy and uplifting sound. That’s how bands like MORWINYON manage to sound both happy and melancholy at the same time, that tone of despair mixed with hope, or hope tinged with a subtle undercurrent of dread.

The easiest example of what I’m talking about appears on "Wounded Land", it’s pretty much all based on an F Lydian scale, and the melody is based on three notes, C-B-G over the bassline which is A to F. If you play close attention throughout most of the song the strings are playing those five notes, in that order over and over again, lest you think I’m disparaging the band for this, it’s all about what the band is doing underneath that repetition and this band is hardly ever boring.

For the first couple minutes the drums really take center stage with blast beats, emphasizing the impact of the harmonic progression while the guitar adds a nice subtle layer of distortion, almost like the filling in a cake. Then the music slows down and strips back the layers allowing us to hear a wonderful little piano motif before the drums and guitar come back in and this time the guitar is taking center stage. Now we have all the same layers as before, but this time the guitar is playing along that lydian scale I mentioned and I would guess he’s improvising, but I don’t know for sure. For the development section one layer of guitar takes on a decidedly thick texture, like what is oft heard in psychedelic music, but it’s not overdone at all, in fact I would say it’s very tastefully done. Unfortunately, the vocals are buried in the mix, there’s no getting around it. The strings and guitar and drums all sound great, but you can barely hear the vocals at all and it’s a shame because I think I really like his vocal style. Regardless of the vocals, this song manages to get across a gamut of emotion, from hope and joy to sorrow and anger. To describe this album to someone who isn’t as familiar with the sub genres of Black Metal, this album really sounds like Black Metal + dungeon synth, meets classical music (more specifically).

For fans of more straightforward and aggressive Black Metal, this album isn’t for you, this album is definitely for the more open minded and joyful Black Metal fan. This album is for the kind of people who love to walk aimlessly through nature and just enjoy the sights and in fact I would say that’s the best way to listen to this album, it enhanced my enjoyment a lot.

I just love when people take Black Metal and make it beautiful, most people don’t think of Black Metal as beautiful or emotional music, but ever since I first listened to bands like CALADAN BROOD, COLDWORLD and PANOPTICON, I realized what kind of emotions Black Metal could create. I realized that sometimes brutality and beauty can walk hand in hand and I love it when Black Metallers throw caution to the wind and throw in all the strings and synthesizers they can because it’s their music and they have a vision, regardless of what others might say isn’t “trve” Black Metal.

The definitions of what is Black Metal (like any genre of music) have been changing since the very beginning and I would argue that when Summoning released their second album MINAS MORGUL they changed the genre of Black Metal. They changed what was acceptable within the genre and how synthesizers, strings and a larger variety of percussion instruments could add a new layer to Black Metal and by adding a little taste of Doom Metal into the sound. They created what is today a fast growing genre and as people get a little tired of the typical second wave Black Metal sound, they increasingly turn to bands like MORWINYON and PANOPTICON for something hopeful and refreshing, especially when the real world is such a tragic place, Atmospheric Black Metal can be a wonderful escape.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. The Intangible Void
2. Sea of Stars
3. Wounded Land
4. Ethereal Night
Matteo Guarnello – Vocals, Keyboards, Drums
Lorenzo Pompili – Guitar, Bass
Record Label: Naturmacht Productions


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Edited 28 May 2023

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