“In the beginning
Shapeless was the world
Stasis violently crashed into existence.
Transformation of bodies
Split the earth from sky
True equilibrium of beings brought to life.”
From Marrowfields – Metamorphoses, “The Flood”
“Before the ocean and the earth appeared…
All discordant elements… were there
Congested in a shapeless heap. —
But God cut the land from skies,
The sea from land…
And when this god had carved asunder
That discordant mass…
He rounded out the earth and moulded it
To form a mighty globe.”
Ovid – Metamorphoses, Book 1, “Creation of the Cosmos”
Never underestimate the power of great cover artwork. Because that’s where it all starts for any band whose goal it is to reach an audience outside of basic radio airplay. Where Massachusetts-based Marrowfields is concerned, artist Kishor Haulenbeek drew me in deep with his artwork for the band’s debut album, “Metamorphoses”, before I heard a single note. The image is dark. It’s full of shadow, and jagged edges. You can almost taste the fog, hear the water ripple, and feel the cold of the wind pushing thick clouds over top the sepia toned mountain landscape. The band’s subtle, earthy logo practically calls out, “come closer, friend. We’ve got a story to tell”.
I must confess to not grasping the concept on first listen, which is quite possibly the album’s only downfall, but that first spin did present a highly enjoyable, extremely well-constructed epic Doom album. And to be honest, if that’s all I ever got out of it, I’d have been entirely satisfied.
Doom can be a tricky sub-genre, after all. There is a unique talent to making eight plus minute long songs consistently relevant and interesting, especially over the span of the average fifty or more minute LP. There are many times when a well-meaning band trips over a rock five minutes in, and never quite recovers. A good Doom band is able to pick the listener back up after a fall. I’m talking about bands like My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, or Type O Negative. That being said, a good Doom band is not entirely saddled with the “Doom” label. Marrowfields fits quite comfortably within a list of the greats, in my opinion, if for no other reason than this: Their music touches you in such a way that repeated listening feels almost mandatory, and that fact isn’t the least bit unsettling. You put it on. You listen. You smile. You scratch your head. You share it with your friends, they do the same, and before you know it everyone is throwing their ideas in the ring for further discussion.
You don’t need to be an Ovidian scholar to enjoy the hell out of music like this. However, I am sure a student of the great poet would be extremely interested in the lyrical tapestry that band leader and guitarist Brandon Green has constructed.
Greens lyrics are not directly taken from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”. It is more accurate to say that the themes are borrowed and reinterpreted. Green, along with the rest of his band (Josh Moran-guitar, AJ Grimes-drums, Tim Cabral-bass, and Ken Gillis-vocals), takes the source material and moulds it like a soft clay into all sorts of alluring shapes. And, like Haulenbeek’s cover art, these shapes excite all the senses. This is the hallmark of exceptional art.
“Metamorphoses” covers an astonishing amount of ground. There are stories about the destruction and creation of the earth, and the wrath of the gods. There are stories of jealousy and betrayal, passion and pain. Crows warn Ravens not to gossip to kings. Innocent young women are imprisoned and driven mad with loneliness and isolation, betraying her kingdom for the love of a half-man/half-beast. Apollo cuts his unborn son from the womb of his dying bride, and Centaurs anger the Fates with false prophecy. Nymphs challenge the Muses to a contest of song, and then are changed into birds after being beaten with an ode to Athena. Hades and Persephone guard the gates of the underworld, as Orpheus begs for the rebirth of his beloved Eurydice. It truly is a dazzling spectacle of creativity.
All of these things and more pepper the landscape of “Metamorphoses”, which obliterates any argument that the songs are long-winded. Unless, of course, you don’t feel much like reading into things. In which case, you would probably be better off with something more straightforward and less poetic. And that would be perfectly fine. As I said, the albums massive concept is perhaps its greatest weakness. Quite an epic attribute, to be sure.
“Metamorphoses” is an impressive debut album from an already accomplished group of musicians, and an exciting glimpse into what will undoubtedly be a long career.
Rating – 4.5/5