Review by Sonny for Morgul Blade - Heavy Metal Wraiths (2024) Review by Sonny for Morgul Blade - Heavy Metal Wraiths (2024)

Sonny Sonny / May 14, 2024 / 0

I was quite interested by Morgul Blade's debut album, 2021's Fell Sorcery Abounds, with it's combination of traditional heavy metal with black metal vocals, but ultimately it sounded better in theory than in practice. It wasn't bad, but it didn't grab me as much as I had hoped it would. Anyway, here we are, two and a half years and a couple of personnel changes later with the Philadelphians' sophomore, Heavy Metal Wraiths. Guitarist Jason Hiller has been replaced by Heavy Temple's Elyse Mitchell (aka Elyse NightHawk) and bassist Dan JD has been superceded by Wild Beyond's Jim Viola. The personnel changes seem to have made a big difference, with the band sounding much tighter than on the debut which I felt got a little bit sloppy at times. The production is excellent with all the elements of the band being perfectly audible and the overall sound being thick and crunchy, from steel-coated riffs to crisp drum fills and thundering bass lines. I must make a particular mention of drummer Will Spectre at this point, who sounds amazing throughout with his energetic and entertaining fills supplementing his sterling work as timekeeper.

Musically they have their feet well and truly planted in the 80s with an arterial line of ascension leading straight back to the stalwarts of early USPM and european trad metal, deploying galloping riffs, melodious leadwork and a tireless rhythm section. Then, of course, there are Klauf's black metallized vocals that instill the tracks with a snarlingly vicious edge and which solves one of the major hurdles I have to overcome with any number of traditional and USPM-derived bands and that is the overt histrionics of some of the frontmen. Musically I like a lot of power metal, but I find the majority of the singers intolerable, so Morgul Blade are tailor-made for me. I guess there are those that will counter this by arguing that the vocals are restrictive compared to those employed by the more theatrical exponents of the art and I can understand that argument, but for me personally, lacking in range though they are, Klauf's blackened snarls just resonate with me so much more than some elaborate glorified air siren that dominates proceedings with attention-seeking wailings. Interestingly, they throw in a couple of curveballs with the short interludes "Widow's Lament" and "A Welcoming Hearth". The former is a clean-sung celtic folk song that I found worked really well in context here and it, along with the opening bars of "Spider God", very much reminded me of Solstice's New Dark Age album where "Blackthorne/The Keep" segues into "Cromlech", a transition I absolutely love. The other interlude, "A Welcoming Hearth", takes the form of a short electric piano and synth-driven electronic piece, which is less out of place than it sounds, following the synth-heavy ending of preceeding track "Razor Sharp".

Funnily enough I found the opening couple of tracks to be the least engaging and it wasn't until the title track, the album's third, that things really kicked into high gear. It, along with "Razor Sharp" and "Neither Cross Nor Crown" all really hit the spot with me and illustrated best how far the band had come since the debut. Ultimately, Heavy Metal Wraiths is an album of good, old-fashioned metal with hook-laden riffs that will be playing around in your head long after the album has ended and has a vitality that stems from songwriters that understand what makes heavy metal great for those who love it.

As an afterthought - and I don't know if it has any relevance - but the artwork shows four hooded, Nazgul-type beings whereas the debut only had a lone hooded figure and I wonder if this is a reflection of a new dynamic within the band, whereby Klauf viewed the earlier material as his own and sees this later release as more of a band effort. It certainly feels that way and is better for it.

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