Who Are…Morne

Jon Wiederhorn

By Jon Wiederhorn

on 08.28.13 in Who Is...?s

File under: Brooding, original doom metal with an atmospheric touch and a mesmeric vibe

For fans of: Neurosis, Sleep, ISIS, and Pelican

From: Boston

Personae: Milosz Gassan (guitars, vocals), Jeff Hayward (guitar), Max Furst (bass), Billy Knockenhauer (drums)

Impacting with the same bleak emotional pounding as Neurosis, the lumbering drone of Sleep and the stylistic flair of groups like Isis and Pelican, Morne are outsiders who dwell far beyond the trendy circles of post-metal or the insular enclave of stoner metal. Polish-born front man Milosz Gassan relishes his role as a mercurial outcast. When he’s not working at a Boston theater building stage sets, he spends endless hours obsessing over every tone and nuance of his music, crafting songs that ebb and flow between airy, textural progressions and dense, crushing rhythms. Morne’s third full-length, Shadows, combines the earth-shakingly heavy with the delicate and vulnerable, revealing both their anger and hopelessness for the human condition and the desire to conjure strength in the face of that despair.

Jon Wiederhorn talked with Gassan about Boston, Behemoth and the uplifting power of depressing music.

On discovering metal in Poland:

I was born in Poland in Gdansk and grew up there until I moved to Boston 13 years ago to be with a girl who was coming to America. I was in my 20s then. We’re not together anymore, but I’m still here. Poland was okay, but I grew up during the communist era. It was hard to find good music and there were almost no concerts. Vader was from nearby and I saw them sometimes, but because I was in Poland I was mostly influenced by bands from Europe and England, like [crust-punk band] Amebix, Godflesh and Pink Floyd.

On the spiritual influence of Behemoth:

I never was so into black metal, but I can say that Behemoth was an important inspiration. They were from Gdansk as well and I saw their first show in front man [Adam] Nergal [Darski's] high school. They weren’t on a stage or anything. They played in the hallway outside the classrooms. There were three of them and it was silly, but I thought, “Well, if they can do this, so can I.” Of course, they got much better and it worked out for them. I love their early stuff. It was very simple. I don’t know about their later stuff.

On not fitting into the Boston music scene:

I started to play with some friends in 2004, but it was hard to find the right lineup. Everyone wanted to play fast, so it wasn’t ideal. We established ourselves in 2007 when we recorded our first demo. But Boston is a strange city for music. We try to play here only once or twice a year because I don’t feel that we fit in. People get distracted very easily.

On mosh pits and stage divers:

I like when people close their eyes and listen to the music instead of jumping around and crashing into each other. I don’t need the crowd to be moving. I’d rather they focus on what’s going on with the atmosphere in the room and how the music flows.

On the uplifting quality of depressing music:

The band’s name is the French way to spell “mourn,” so I guess it makes sense that we write depressing songs. But we are not suicidal and we don’t sit down and say, “OK, let’s make some really depressed stuff.” Maybe the last album Asylum was more sad. I was getting a divorce right while I was writing it. But Shadows was written from the relief of having that being behind me. If you really listen to the songs, and especially the lyrics, there’s always some sort of hope and a belief in moving forward and hoping for a better day.

On the power of minimalism:

Our previous albums seem complicated to me. There are a lot of strange keyboard parts and weird atmospheres. This time we wanted to make a record that sounded as close to our live performance as possible. We got rid of our keyboard player and eliminated the keyboards entirely. We wanted Shadows to be very simple and natural, even though the songs are all very long. It wasn’t intentional. We just stopped working on the songs when we feel like we finished expressing ourselves, and sometimes that took 10 or 12 minutes.

On why it took more than a year to write five songs:

We started to write riffs for Shadows at the end of 2011 and we finished in January, 2013. From the outset we said, “Let’s not rush anything.” Let’s take our time writing riffs and making sure every part works with everything else.” At the same time, we didn’t try to overthink anything. We let the songs mature and sit, and then we listened back and when we liked something we didn’t mess with it anymore.

On recording during the Boston marathon bombing manhunt:

We were in New Alliance Studio in Cambridge when the bomb exploded. We went to take a break and we suddenly noticed we were locked down. There was nobody on the streets, but there were cops everywhere hunting down one of the bombers. It seemed like a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie when we looked out of the window and saw only police and nothing else.