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Final Breath Records
How much creativity can be squeezed out of two musicians trying to put together an ambitious goth metal project? The question has been a constant one ever since Garden Grove's Morphine Killer came together in 2007. Eski, damn near a one man band onto himself, joined forces with Belle Rocka, a singer who also plays keyboards. Two years later they began putting out EPs, the first of which I picked up for free on the flier rack at Bionic Records in Cypress by chance. Immediately playing the CD on my drive home, Eski's gritty guitar riffs and Belle Rocka's sonorous vocals made me take notice.
Now Morphine Killer is well poised to do that with others on a larger scale with the release of the debut full-length album Sickening last week. The new collection of nine songs recorded at the home studio of the band illustrates how the metal duo has matured musically since the time of their initial EPs. "Another Day in the Flames" is a barn burning first track tone setter with Eski taking to the vocals alternating between death growls and whispers. The big metal riffs are bone crunching throughout before the musician takes to another form of alternation towards the end of the song. A musical dialogue between his bass and guitar arrangements transforms into a classic build-up where the double bass drum hits unleash the gates of goth metal hell.
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Belle Rocka equally elevates her talents on the new album. "Sacrilegious Celebration" sees her seamlessly switch between her straight forward style of singing, tortured whispers and impressive death growls of her own. She even is afforded the opportunity to serenade on a ballad when the nine-track metal assault comes to a screeching halt in the middle of it all on "It's Too Late." The song, well suited to highlight her vocal talents, thrusts into heavy distorted riffs, if only for a short section, before returning back to its acoustic base and slowly fading into the end.
When Belle Rocks dominates the vocal duties on Sickening, especially the previously released depression anthem "Throw it All Away," Morphine Killer can't help but remind listeners of the dynamics employed by Evanescence, only they utilize them properly and don't make horrible music! For his part, Eski is quite competent in holding down the rest of the album's furious growlers such as the steady paced "An Air of Disrespect." And just as you've think you've figured them out, the local metal band ends their self-produced debut with the instrumental "New Industry." Neither Eski nor Belle Rocka take to the microphone, but they still mash out a worthy headbanger anyway.
Returning to the question that started off this local record review; how creative can two musicians get on nine metal songs? Plenty, when the duo is dynamic as evidenced by the release of Sickening, an album, that despite its title, leaves listeners with a good feeling.