Saturday 20 March 2021

How Crust Survived the Millennium Bug (part 10): Morne "demo 2008" Lp, 2009

If I had to find the most accurate metaphor to locate Morne in the grand crust narrative, one that profoundly resonates with my personal mythology, I would say that Morne were the Ahmed Johnson of the genre. When Ahmed, out of nowhere, ran to the ring and slammed Yokozuna in 1995, I was just like the crowd: flabbergasted. This powerful and, I daresay, legendary slam left me in awe and, as a 12 year-old, confirmed that I wanted to be a wrestler when I grew up. Sadly, reality struck me in the face, and with a physique reminiscent of Harry Potter in the early movies, wrestling quickly became a fantasy that would never come true and my dreams were shattered. My size could have allowed me to become a referee but, as they are often clownishly mistreated, this would have only added to the humiliation. But back to Morne. Just as unexpected as Ahmed's incredible feat of lifting Yoko, the band, it appeared to me, also pretty much slammed crust out of nowhere when I first came across their demo in 2008. 

Now, I realize it is not the first time I have expressed memories of genuine feelings of surprise throughout How Crust Survived the Millennium Bug. Indisputably, the Χειμερία Νάρκη's 2003 album shook me hard and rocked my tiny world. However, this took place in 2003 and, in the subsequent five years, I became a rabid listener and devout follower of crust music and, as patches steadily grew on my sleeveless jackets, I slowly turned into an amateur archaeologist of the genre, reading everything I could find on the subject and saving whatever I could from my meager income to buy crust records (blogs only really kicked off around 2008/09 and the fast and unlimited streaming of music sounded as unlikely as a reality TV star becoming the president of the US of A). I may have been cocky enough at some point in the late 00's to claim boastfully that I had mastered the truth of crust - if the internet never forgets, fortunately people do - but a couple of meaningful revelations taught me (some) humility and that, not only was the quest only just beginning, but that the most important and most fulfilling element of it was the continuous process of realizing your objective, the path of knowledge rather than its completion. If you listen carefully, that's pretty much Yoda's message especially since the Force and the Crust are kinda equivalent at the end of the day. So basically when Morne noisily crashed into my youthful certainties, my knowledgeability of crust was much more solid than it had been five years before. Still, this demo absolutely kicked me up the arse and, well, it was a wonderful feeling which does not happen that often these days. Bloody inspiring, mate.

I first heard of Morne around the time of the release of this first recording in 2008 (in spite of forming in 2005, I don't think many had heard of Morne outside of Boston and probably Poland) through the Profane Existence message board, a platform that acted as a decent source of information about old and new bands from all over the place, hot releases and tales from the past told by heroic old-timers. It was not so dissimilar to Facebook, only the PE board did not display ads, did not spread dodgy theories and was not owned by a multibillion capitalist company. Minor differences really. I think a generous punk posted a download link to the Morne demo and, following the general enthusiasm, my thirst for crust led me to give Morne a chance. Unaware of the band's connection with a definite favourite of mine, I did not really expect anything from it and the gesture had more to do with healthy curiosity than irrepressible excitement. The first listen of the demo instantly proved sufficient to convert me. Bam.

Let's get rid of the elephant in the room right away: Morne is fronted by Milosz, former member of Gdansk-based crust legends Filth of Mankind, who moved to the States in the mid-00's (I guess?). I have no qualms about claiming, loudly as a former post shows, that FOM were one of the best old-school crust bands of their era and the absence of their magnus opus The Final Chapter in this series only has to do with my will not to be (too) redundant but it rightfully deserves a comfy spot in the top crust albums of the noughties. When I learnt about the connection between both bands, Morne's masterly first effort made sense. That this brilliant recording could be categorized as a demo felt a little insulting, as much as I instantly loved it. There was none of the sloppy playing, approximate tuning, non-existent production and naive songwriting that the term "demo" implied to me. Recorded in November, 2007 and March, 2008 at Dead Air Studio by Will Killingsworth, the Morne demo sounded like an incredibly brilliant album rather than a demo tape, which it originally was in 2008 (a cd version also existed). Although the production can be said to be a little raw and dirty - a better description in the context would be organic and cavernous - as opposed to a cleaner sound that the band may have craved for (subsequent events seem to point that way so that intention is of prime importance), I personally believe that it sounds absolutely perfect for a crust album: raw, dark, heavy, brooding and gritty. If the demo of my former band in the noughties had sounded even half as good - inspired and tasteful were not even options - as Morne's demo, I would have been a most unbearably conceited lad to say the least.

As lazy as the comparison might seem, you can certainly recognize Milosz' guitar style in Morne and link it to FOM's riffing and texture, but after all, in their early days, like FOM, Morne played in the metallic crust league and used the classic traits that the genre substantially encompassed. However, where FOM relied on a more aggressively grim sense of imminent threat, Morne sounded far sadder but also deeper and, well, more desolate and beatutiful. You could say that FOM were apocalyptic while Morne's beginnings were post-apocalyptic. Their objectives - let's call it an update of the Amebix/Axegrinder type of crust - might have been similar but the ingredients were different. FOM had both feet loyally planted in the crust tradition while Morne borrowed elements from doom-metal and heavy post-hardcore and as a result sounded more progressive and also much more narrative than a lot of 00's crust bands while still looking at an old-school crust compass to navigate its galloping epic vibe. There are seven songs on the demo for 39 minutes so you can imagine that the band was able to take its sweet time in order to build story-like chapters with proper introductions, endings, climax so that the album sounds like a living cohesive whole with its plot, well set atmosphere and recurring narrative tricks. 

The dominant pace is of the brooding and mid-tempo variety and parallels between Morne's early stage and the heavy doomsday dirges of Axegrinder and Misery, with a torturous Neurosis twist, are relevant. Morne's progressive narrative side also made me think of Skaven's (though they told a very different story) and especially of Balance of Pain-era Counterblast, who were brilliant at playing with moods and ambiance while remaining mean and crushing and proved to be able to speed things up when apposite. The vocals are clever, not forceful or savage, but shouted naturally with a gruff undertone, a bit like Axegrinder, crusty but not growling. Finally, and it certainly contributed to me being so starry-eyed about this recording, Morne were a synth-driven old-school crust band, unfortunately, tragically even, a phrase I cannot write nowhere near often enough. I have always been of the opinion that the addition of a synth transcends the epic gloom that is at the heart of proper crust and Morne used it with dashing maestria. I cannot help but being reminded of the classic Greek crust sound epitomized by early 90's Χαοτικό Τέλος, and quite obviously of Monolith-era Amebix and Axegrinder's Rise of the Serpent Men, and even - perhaps it sounds a bit bold but I am a man who loves danger and I've had more than my fair share of near death experiences, notably when playing badminton - of early Acrostix, and them more than the others maybe. The song "Twilight burns" makes me want to wear cool shades and ride a bike into the sunset, no mean feat considering I tend to be nauseous on motorbikes (anything that has a motor really).

The vinyl reissue of the demo was released in early 2009 with only 330 copies pressed. It had a lovely foldout cover silkscreened with silver ink which is pretty fucking classy indeed. The cover itself is appropriately bleak but not really special (a misty forest), however the lettering of the lyrics was done by Dino Sommese from Dystopia and Asunder and you can definitely recognize his style which I happen to dig (he also did it on the split between Stormcrow and Sanctum). The Lp was released on No Options Records, a busy label on the crust front in the 00's (Stormcrow, Limb From Limb, Phalanx). Following the demo, Morne recruited Jeff from Grief and Disrupt on second guitar (he even appeared on the picture on the back of the vinyl version of the demo, though he doesn't play on it) and this lineup recorded three songs for a split Lp with the excellent Warprayer from Bristol on Alerta Antifascista. The production was much cleaner and Morne's side was certainly monumental, with the sludgy post-hardcore-doom influence significantly more prevalent, still in the metallic crust territory, but very close to the frontier which would be crossed for good on the next record. Untold Wait, released in 2009 on Feral Ward - the band moved really quickly at that point - was basically a re-recording of the demo with a clean and clear production pretty much turning the work into a post-hardcore doom-metal album, which makes one think about the importance of orchestration and artistic intent when it comes to the vibe you are trying to convey. I lost track of the band afterwards - though I did catch them live a second time in 2012 in Paris (I first caught them on their 2009 tour and religiously bought a cheerful shirt) - as they went on to evolve into a more progressive atmospheric doom-metal realm. Not my cuppa but certainly well-executed.

 Can you have training wheels on a motorbike? Just asking for a friend.



  1. Have really, really enjoyed this series - thanks very much! Few new discoveries and a couple of new albums bought as well. You mention Filth Of Mankind would be in your top crust albums of the noughties (totally agree) and wondered out of interest if you'd ever made a list? I mean I'm sure you have but would be really interested to see it if you're up for posting it. Cheers again

    1. Hello there. Thanks for your kind words. It was a fun and interesting series to compile to be honest as the 00's were a decade of intense discovery for me.
      As for a ranking or list of the best crust records, it is too difficult a task. FOM's "Final chapter" of course, Extinction of Mankind's "Northern scum" without a doubt, the early Hellshock material, the Stormcrow/Sanctum split Lp, the Acrostix/Contrast Attitude... There are quite a few of them but I would have to think long and hard about it in order to be exhaustive!