We Are The River is, at face value, very predictable. Minnesota’s Morke don’t stick out from the gargantuan atmoblack pack at a glance and this third record doesn’t go down with any great difficulty. You can check off boxes at a steady rate; melodic tremolos, blast beats, high-pitched shrieks, heavy doses of reverb, etc. Maybe it doesn’t help that it’s front-loaded with some of the more long-winded, meditative tracks while the rippers come pretty deep into the hour–and-twenty runtime. But patient listening begins to reveal a certain emotional depth buried beneath the surface that elevates Morke above the pack in 2021.
We Are The River sports a homespun production job, but it’s competently done. Everything is leveled pretty well and the moving pieces each have their defined space, though it could sound a bit bigger at times and a little more harsh edge would’ve done it good. There’s not a lot in the way of blinding technical proficiency, but every instrument does its part admirably. Few complaints arise on first listen.
What then places We Are The River above being just another so-so atmoblack record? Despite being composed of just solid individual elements, somehow the compositions here rise above mere competence. Digging into the background helps. The album is the product of an unexpected three years toil and was accompanied by a great deal of emotional turmoil. It shows in the music. The melodies consistently come across as heartfelt and a tense energy underpins the album from start to finish. Even the curious choices in song order begin to track with sole member Eric Wing’s notes on eventually finding a lot of confidence and happiness near the end of a particularly tough year. Songs like ‘Intrusions’ that feel delicate eventually give way to the brazen fury in parts of ‘Rehabilitate’. After the horror of 2020 Wing’s closing message strikes true: It WILL get better.
We Are The River is out now and can be ordered here.
Words: Brett Tharp