This is the work of someone who unlike the name suggests is far from tranquilised! Argwohn aka Christopher Schwarz is the guy behind everything we hear on this project which has been active since 2013. In 3 short years he has released 2 demos, 5 EP’s and 10 albums. He has also been active past and present in around 11 other bands, many of them one man projects too. These include the likes of Galaktic Cancer Squad, Pill Eater, Cocaine Commander and Uranus Explodes (lolz). Whatever drugs he is on they certainly seem to be working. He really does seem to favour going it alone too as from what I can determine everything under the name of Morphinist seems to be independently self-released without anything in the form of label interference. This album was originally independent before getting picked up by a German label and If this had not been the case I doubt we would have been sent this digitally by a PR agent.
Terraforming is the 9th Morphinist album and since it was released Argwohn already has another out called Giants. This is my first introduction to his work and I’m kind of glad it was not Giants that I was sent as it’s a whopping 90 minute 5 tracker. Terraforming is much more compact, containing the one self-titled track in three parts lasting just 35 minutes. I would say it gives a good indication of his overall output but apparently “Argwohn changes the sound of the project with each release, adding various elements of other genres to the music and refuses to follow any rules or trends.”
A spacey droning synth sound leads in as various elements are assembled and brood heavily in a doom-like fashion on the first part of this, sounding like we are about to be thrust into a hostile environment, much in line with the album title. Cold glittering shards of guitar have us drifting through space before we are suddenly flung into the midst of a massive blackened swaggering vortex. Vocals join in with this and are spiteful and rasp away in the background as a fast tremolo guitar weave enforces the melodic thrust. It’s kind of like being flung into a black hole in dark deep space and its powerful stuff. Elements shift and change pace wise as a galloping mid-paced groove is hit with some really great guitar work weaving away. There’s plenty of atmosphere and a real dense feel going on here as the post black raptures drive forward, sounding far more massive than one would expect from just one person. Acoustic passages are really lush and hypnotic and you can really soak up the atmosphere here, close your eyes and be transported off into an imaginative vision of just what the music conveys to you, until that is the next violent surge jolts you out of reverie. The slower paced instrumental segments take atmospheric form that would not be out of place in a funeral doom outfit like Esoteric or Ahab with a real craggy vocalist and there is also a Gothic feel from the cold synth work and Nephilim like guitar parts that take us into the second shortest part of this interstellar voyage. It has a vast and filmic feel to it and works as a great build up to a more furious velocity as the track takes off. At just over 5 minutes this one feels like it has a huge amount to it still even if it is just a third the length of the other parts. Gravid doom is very much at the fore as the last movement shapes up, the vocals growl and sound alien before the track bounces off and flails out some dextrous riff-work. I’m sure there must be a story behind the music and wonder just what the vocals are adding to any narrative but it is left to the music here to fill in any gaps. There’s lots going on and the music keeps flowing from slower parts to fast seething breaks; atmosphere charged behind it at every twist and turn.
First contact has been very impressive and as all the other releases have been kindly laid out at the Morphinist Bandcamp link I feel that further exploration must be undertaken over time. I hope that future work will be forthcoming too as Terraforming has definitely whetted my appetite.
(8/10 Pete Woods)