Morrow Morrow

[Excursions into the Abyss; 2010]

Styles: post hardcore
Others: Murder by Death, …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead

Morrow’s self-titled debut comes like the answer to my indie rock prayers. It’s the kind of sweeping, wide-lens post hardcore that few artists even seem interested in making anymore. With just a guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard, the Bloomington four-piece create a dizzying sense of scale that belies both the traditional rock arrangements and the modest two- to five-minute running times of the individual songs.

Like their hometown heroes Murder by Death, Morrow are interested in creating grandiose rock ‘n’ roll with one foot planted in folk. But while MBD’s proclivities tend towards country and All Things Americana, Morrow seem to hark back further. There’s a decidedly old-world melancholia to songs like “Ashland” and “Ship as My Mistress,” bolstered further by front man Jarod Isenbarger’s tendency towards archaic imagery. While he lacks Adam Turla’s moral acuity and narrative concision, he knows how to turn a phrase, and when the music is firing on all cylinders, his apocalyptic pronouncements come across with the force of a thundering Jeremiad. ”Preach on Mannequin People/ We’re all made of wood/ Faceless and pale as cold water/ Hew our loves out of poison/ Cleansing our blood/ Hollowed necks are the vessels of sickness,” he intones on “Sweet Respite to a Nevermore Melody.” I couldn’t tell you what’s got him so worked up, but that all seems beside the point once the drum fills turn into an avalanche and send those tense, tender guitar figures crashing down the mountainside in the song’s final instants.

It takes some work to find those moments, though. This is definitely a collection of songs meant to be experienced as an album, with a precise balance struck between restraint and catharsis. While I admire that attention to craft, it would be nice if the individual tracks called more attention to themselves. The production doesn’t do much either: the record has a dry, flat quality that keeps these abstract diatribes rooted in a tangible sonic world, but I wonder what these compositions would sound like with just a little more depth in the mix.

Solid and enjoyable as their debut may be, it’s the potential that Morrow display here that’s truly exhilarating. They’re a talented and ambitious group of songwriters, and if this record falls a little short, it’s only because they had the audacity to set their sights high. I’m looking forward to watching them shoot for their mark again and again.

Links: Morrow - Excursions into the Abyss

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