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Murk Rider - Exile of Shadows

Murk Rider
Exile of Shadows
by Chris Hawkins at 29 July 2019, 4:55 PM

MURK RIDER is an unsigned band hailing from Baywood-Los Osos, California.  “Exile of Shadows,” their debut is just shy of one hour and twenty minutes and is composed of a mere three songs,  Despite this somewhat daunting length and the band’s relative unknown status, this is an outstanding album which breaks the Black Metal mold as it progresses through mighty soundscapes penned by meticulously attentive musicians with a clear image of creation and blinding ambition.

With the beginning of “Descent,” the first track, lush acoustics bloom with transfixing minor chords hinting at a slight dissonant stance.  When the electrics come in, the sound shifts to a pointed, sharp tone under which pensive bass notes swirl creating their own subset of harmonies.  As the music progresses, more Black Metal elements are introduced without becoming predictable or overstated.  The band’s identity develops at a steady pace through myriad expositions in which ideas are further explored and carefully elaborated.  One actually feels as if descending while listening, falling faster and faster into an apparently bottomless oblivion.

What becomes clear as the album progresses is that these are musicians with a supreme vision.  The ultimate scope is devoid of the pedantic, but rather acutely focused on the grandeur-that-can-be for an album.  Numerous tracks are laid on top of each other creating a towering monolith of sound.  At times, there seems to be a Doom side of the band that emerges as slabs of mirth-filled chords collide with the more typical tropes of the band’s Black Metal style.

Exile of Shadows” lacks the commonly accepted Black Metal style of production.  There is an abundance of experimentation including the mature use of effects to embellish ideas.  Each instrument is given its own unique voice and sufficient room to contribute successfully to the song at hand.  For example, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the album is listening to the bass performance, one that is universally audible, extremely creative and unique, and also solid as the foundation of the low end and part of the rhythm section.  The guitars are stout, finely-sharpened, and yield both fascinatingly addictive melodies and thunderous rhythms.  Deft at time-keeping and galloping with a primal roar, the drums aptly perform their duties and command one’s attention with a superbly-tweaked organic boom.

Perhaps what could be labelled as MURK RIDER’s greatest gift is the band’s precise use and grasp of effective dynamics.  With a long album composed of three songs, this proficiency of adding peaks and valleys is absolutely essential.  An excellent example of this is during the second song, “Journey,” where after a brutally raging beginning, the somber, pensive acoustics from the beginning return and are met with the sound of falling water and some poignantly delivered clean female vocals.  As this vocal part progresses, the acoustic falls off.  Trickling water increases to the steady gallop of rain and finally to a deluge akin to standing underneath a brimming waterfall.  Join this with the following tumultuous cacophony of Black Metal dissonant bliss and the result is an album with a complete palette of color and expansive imagination solidified by a full range of emotion.  As the song winds down further, the ear is entreated to a tremendously calculated bass performance ascending against descending guitar chords and vice versa.  Ultimately, it is a showcase of extreme bass playing proficiency expanding the very concept of the instrument’s role in the genre.  As a musician, it translates to one of those “I wish I’d have thought of that!” moments.

It is rare to hear a debut with such a mature, refined sound.  This is especially so coming from an unsigned band.  MURK RIDER, however, operate on an entirely higher level than many of their peers.  The scope of their vision seemingly infinite, the band have served up what amounts to one of the most exciting, enthralling, and enriching musical experiences this year.

Songwriting:  8
Originality:  9
Memorability:  8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Descent
2. Journey
3. Return

Ross Major – Bass, Backing Vocals
Tom Hoopes – Drums
Ian Thompson – Guitars, Lead Vocals
Derek Schultz – Guitars, Lead Vocals

Record Label: Independent


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