Morning Star: Adonai

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Morning Star: Adonai
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Morning Star: Adonai
Atmospheric Black Metal
Crow’s Demise Records
January 23rd, 2015
Release length: 29:57
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One man operation Morning Star hails from Brownsville, Texas, and has gone through a bit of a genre overhaul as of late. Initially formed by Luciano “Lucifer Crow” Estrada, the solo entity managed to spawn three full-length albums over the years that spanned from Electronica to acoustic compositions. These recordings were once made available on iTunes, but only for a short while. Since then, Luciano began moving the project towards Black Metal, paying homage to some of his favorite bands of the style through mostly improvised performances (according to the information provided). The end result is the brand new album Adonai. But is this solo effort one worth seeking out, or does it fall prey to every generic one-man project fault in existence?

Much like the early works from the start of Black Metal’s second wave, Adonai captures that signature raw sound quite well. According to Luciano, this is thanks to the “cheap amplifier” that was used in the recording process, backed by a significantly more crisp, though not without echo, drum machine that is masked by heavy synthesizer and keyboard use throughout each track. The whispered mix of harsh and snarling vocals add to the atmosphere that skirts between dank mists and frostbitten landscapes that send a chill right through the air. While this approach has started to come across as a gimmick or a crutch lately for bands to sound more primal or haunting than they truly are, Morning Star‘s approach both sounds and feels genuine every step of the way, managing to do what Burzum accomplished while Varg was behind bars, though sans the .midi keyboard.

“Filius Dei” introduces the slow burn that is Adonai well enough, though makes for a somewhat rocky journey. The cold clean chords of the guitar with some distant synth in the background that initially sound like a haunting wind are replaced with dull distortions and a female vocal effect for the sake of a Middle Eastern sensation layered over them. The track itself is paced well at first, setting up the regional influence in more than those sounds, such as the guitars around the two minute mark. But, about thirty seconds later, you get the feeling much of what you’re hearing is filler, jumping from aggression to mystical and back again with very little purpose or direction, all before wrapping up on a somewhat grander note that you will wish had come ito play long before, as well as more often.

“Filius Dei” isn’t the only track that ends up a little on the relaxing side, though. “Adonai” is a bit more eccentric in comparison, though still just as held back. From the moment the nightmarish notes and sliding along the guitar neck start this off, you are cast into a world of fire and ice, isolation and march to one’s own fate; Hell. While far more abrasive in the long run, it still ends up just as restrained on a different level, unlike the a cover of Behemoth‘s “Hell Dwells in Ice”. This rendition manages to stay true to form for the most part. While Adonai has that raw analog trait to the guitars, the keyboards are not so lucky. This is the biggest difference, which ends up more of a technological issue than that of the musician’s. The notes end up sounding fairly modern, and considering the guitars here are clean, it makes the overall impact a bit thin. Of course this doesn’t change the chill the song itself still manages to give off, even in digital format.

“The Sun God”, however, does a lot of things right to make it one of the more memorable cuts, but also as much wrong. The starting choir chants and female singing keyboards help back that Middle Eastern vibe from the guitars, but the triple bass kicks end up a bit overkill, especially since that introduction flows into a fairly empty and slow moving main verse. They erupt from time to time elsewhere, but it would have been nice to keep the steady mid-tempo performance going instead of slamming into what many would argue a trigger effect had it been handled by a human and not a machine. There’s also a conflicting environment by about three minutes in, where the desert-like setting seems to take on that of a lake in a deep forest at night (though this is my own interpretation of this passage), only reverting back to those earlier effects that, admittedly, are a bit too loud to begin with. By the end, they become pretty obnoxious, not to mention take away from the simple yet effect closing guitar solo.

While the environments that Morning Star weaves can be truly impressive, it’s the more aggressive “Sinai” that sticks out the most. This is where the solo act just lets loose with deep chugging riffs that allow the bass guitar to stand out more, not to mention drop the female vocal effects to bing the focus back to the musician himself. Those notes do appear from time to time as bridges though, and, really, that’s where they serve the most purpose for this one in the end, leaving behind a very well orchestrated track that doesn’t struggle to push itself towards the five minute mark.

Adonai is an interesting collection of bleak and depressing atmospherically charged performances that speak highly of both the early second wave of Black Metal, and of the genre as a whole through one man’s understanding. With the exception of the latter half of “Filius Dei”, this “mostly improvised” album doesn’t really sound like it. Luciano paces much of the material out well, creating engaging landscapes of frostbite, mysticism, and nightmares that can either set your mind at ease or find you past the gates of Hell. The biggest gripe to be had is the over abundance of female vocals, and how much of the album relies on them to establish the Egyptian themes, not to mention the volume they are set at. In a way, it’s like trading the raw audio trope for another sub-genre staple, which hopefully won’t be the case for future releases. But even with that said, if you enjoy your Black Metal at its coldest and most analog, mixing together mid-career Burzum moods and arrangements with notable Behemoth influence, Adonai is still an enjoyable experience worth checking out with an open mind.


01. Filius Dei – 5:22
02. The Sun God – 6:06
03. Sinai – 4:51
04. Hell Dwells in Ice (Behemoth cover) – 5:52
05. Adronai – 7:46
Initial Pressing Score: 7.5/10

Morning Star

Digital review copy of this release provided by Morning Star.