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Morag Tong

morag tong last knell of om album cover

Last Knell of Om

18.05.18 – Self-released

01. Transmission
02. New Growth
03. We Answer
04. To Soil
05. Ruminations
06. Ephemera / Stare Through The Deep

Psych doom newcomers Morag Tong present a curious take on their genre, a smorgasbord of sounds, textures and colours, rich and warm and deep. Their riffs are glacial and foreboding, and with every emerging pattern their personality develops. This is great news for established fans of the psych element that has slowly been creeping into modern doom metal; something presenting the shimmering, effervescent textures of psychedelia but with the mass, volume and presence of doom metal ticks a lot of boxes.

In the context of the genre that approach alone makes for a rewarding find, but Morag Tong’s power comes not just from their mature musical aesthetic but from their focus and the clarity of their ideas. Their monolithic riffs feel like a foundation, but the songs are structured around the scaffolding of the sparse, well-placed verses. These key vocal moments aren’t so much hooks as moments of clarity in a very dense, sometimes sinister and foreboding album. These act as rewarding kernels, moments of sense that engage a listener and justify their comparative sonic indulgence, very successfully allowing them to establish their own psych sound alongside writing distinct, recognisable, rewarding tracks.

This approach to their genre and songwriting more generally require s a bit of a re-think. In an initial draft of this review I outlined that one of the vocal moments stuck out a little negatively – “the hills are alive with the sound of creation” suggested a Sound of Music vibe, which felt a little out of keeping with their own self-contained mythology. But on repeat listens I found myself looking forward to it re-appearing; it’s a curious line but one that sounds appropriately gargantuan, and the connotation faded. The record certainly warrants a full listen, but even as background noise the heavy ambience is colourful and engaging.

Psych comes from a tradition of wild excess and experimentation in absolute defiance of structure, so it’s rewarding to find a modern psych band working against this grain and writing songs with clear structure whilst utilising a heavy psych aesthetic. What’s especially impressive about Last Knell of Om is how many things could have gone wrong but didn’t – it never feels like Morag Tong have to reign in their imagination or vision; the music they’ve created is colossal, but accessible and lazer-precise.

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