01. Water From Water
02. Bull Of Crete
05. Zeta II Reticuli
06. Zeta II Reticuli, pt 2
07. King In Yellow
08. When Blood Leaves
09. Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, pt 2 (bonus King Crimson cover)
[Season of Mist]
Murmur are a self-described experimental black metal band from Chicago. The prefix of experimental should be emphasized as Murmur are definitely not your stereotypical black metal band, with the range of influences found on their self-titled album including jazz and noise-rock. Due to the fact that each band member thoroughly understands their instrument, Murmur has no problem experimenting with different soundscapes under the execution of a black metal aesthetic.
The tonal quality of the guitars is very rigid and angular. While also helming the duty of guitars and vocals, Matthias and Shane Vogels use synths to create jazzy moments throughout the album, the descent from the crescendo found on track two, ‘Bull of Crete,’ demonstrating this quite nicely. Juxtaposed to the jazzier moments, the track ‘Recuerdos’ has a very Western feel and serves as a quieter intermission with the drums and vocals taking a backseat to the guitars and synths.
The duo’s interplay with the rhythm section found in bassist Alex Perkolup and drummer Charlie Werber is superb, transitioning between laser-like shreds and blast beats to richly fleshed out atmospheres. ‘Al-Malik’, a highlight, begins with blistering guitars and drums racing one another. Eventually everything slows down as the guitar tone takes on a blunter quality with a twinge of doom while the piano-like synth starts to dart the background. The haunting vocals, presumably Shane, begin to echo softly with guitars returning to sharper form. The head-banging tension rises and continues to peak until the dizzying speeds resume as the song closes with its own introductory riff.
‘Zeta II Reticuli’ and ‘Zeta II Reticuli Part Two’ work together to build a faster tempo after their predecessor and comes to a screeching halt with ‘King In Yellow.’ Matthias’ strained and anguished vocals become the focal point as the rest of the instruments slow down to a head-bobbingly droning pace. Eventually the only vocals heard are harrowing screams until those fade and all that’s left is the noise of the guitars and drums. Track eight, ‘When Blood Leaves’, closes the album peacefully with softly sung clean vocals.
The production quality is top-notch. The chaos is loud and the atmosphere is crisp. Each instrument is quite distinguishable from the others during the plush, softer moments on the album. The importance of this can’t be stressed enough as Murmur’s music is most memorable when everything slows down.
Although it’s easy to pick out different influences throughout the album, the cohesiveness of all the tracks allow the varied elements to blend seamlessly after multiple listens. The varied song compositions and chord progressions give the album a very progressive feel; fitting, as the album clocks in at a weighty 51 minutes. My only hope is that the next album is longer. If you’re looking for an album that’s as equally challenging as it is rewarding, look no further. Murmur’s self-titled is an intelligently-crafted piece of music that isn’t afraid to dabble in the pools of obscurity through experimental song progression.