Courtesy: Spinefarm Records
It’s hard to do the same thing over and over for years at a time. Everybody knows that. It’s why people change jobs. It is also why members of musical acts across the musical universe decide at one point or another to branch out and try their hands at something new (I.E. solo albums). Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton joined those ranks in March with his debut solo album Anasthetic. The 10-song, 42 minute record shows Morton as not just a metal guitarist, but rather a multi-talented musician who has the capability to succeed in any musical genre. This is proven in part late in the album’s run in the form of ‘Reveal.’ It will be addressed shortly. The surprisingly subdued ‘Axis,’ which comes early in the album’s run, is another way in which Morton’s wide range of talent is exhibited in this record. ‘Save Defiance,’ the album’s mid-point is yet another way in which Morton’s full talents are put on display and will also be addressed later. Each song noted here is important in its own way in proving Mark Morton is more than just another metal shredder. When they are examined along with the rest of the record’s entries, the whole of the album creates a new and deserved respect for Morton and his abilities.
Mark Morton’s debut self-titled album Anasthetic is a strong first solo outing for the Lamb of God guitarist. That is because it allowed Morton to fully put on display, his talents as a guitarist. It allowed him to show he is talented at doing more than just churning out heavy, shredding riffs. Rather, it shows he can handle his own in almost any genre of music. ‘Reveal,’ which comes late in the album’s run is just one of the album’s entries that supports those statements. The song, recorded with singer/songwriter Naeemah Maddox, is the polar opposite of anything that Morton has ever done as a member of LoG. The work presented by Morton here, is gentle and bluesy. It expertly compliments the Philadelphia-born vocalist’s delivery and the work of their fellow musicians. His bluesy guitar solo lends itself so easily to comparisons to the best work of Derek Trucks and Carlos Santana. It is a true, full departure from everything that fans of Morton’s work have ever known, and it is so in the best way possible.
The song’s musical arrangement is just one part of what makes it stand out. Its positive lyrical content couples with its musical to make the song in whole even more interesting. Maddox sings in the song’s lead verse, “Could be all for sale/Or could be smoke and mirrors/The end is growing near/Or could be smoke and mirrors/Say who you are/Go set your truth/Don’t be the rude in another’s fair/See how you feel/And the nreveal/You may not be who you are/Right at this moment in time.” She continues in the song’s second verse, “Go and dig a well/And hide as you abide/See, I’m fragile as a shell/And echo like a bell.” She adds in the song’s third and final verse, “Willing, you have your own mind/You can think for yourself.” She is saying here that things aren’t always just black and white. There are shades of grey, so be you and be the best you can be. That is at least this critic’s own town on this. It is just one interpretation. Hopefully it is somewhere close to being right as it certainly seems to send a rather positive message to listeners. That, taken into consideration with the song’s musical arrangement, makes the song just one of Anasthetic’s most notable tracks and just one of the most notable examples of Morton’s wide range of talent. ‘Axis,’ which comes much earlier in the album’s run, is another key example of Morton’s abilities and, in turn, most notable additions.
‘Axis’ is another key example of Morton’s talents and by connection another of this record’s most notable entries. Crafted with vocalist Mark Lanegan (ex-Screaming Trees), the song’s subdued arrangement lends itself to comparisons to works from the likes of Tom Waitts and Bruce Springsteen. That is most evident in Lanegan’s vocals and Morton’s guitar work. Again, this is a stark departure for Morton from the intensity of the work that he has done over the years with Lamb of God. It shows he can do so much more than jus play fast and loud, but rather also slower and with great dynamic control. It makes for that much more respect for Morton and his abilities. The song’s musical arrangement does a lot to make this work stand out, and is just one part of what makes it stand out. The song’s lyrical content adds its own share of interest to the song’s whole.
Lanegan sings seemingly in this song, about someone who has been through quite a bit of adversity in life and is struggling to get through it. What’s interesting here is that for all the adversity, the song doesn’t come across as some sort of emo type song. Rather, it harkens back to the great blues songs of days long ago through its lyrical delivery. He sings in the song’s lead verse, “I came down with a fever/The catacombs, they were filled/Lucifer within my larynx/Clothing a sarcophagus/Baby, set my head on fire/Every man is born to die/The Captain called me out on a carpet, boys/You know I got a tear in my eye/” he continues in the song’s second verse, “I have been lost and wandering/A wanderer I remain/Met Judas in West Texas/Tried to take my name/Now I am lost and wandering/And wandering, I am blind/Will the moon come off its axis/Before I lose my mind/I came down with a sickness/Pouring down just like rain/Red, red sun in the evening/Red, red heart full of pain.” He adds a touch more in the song’s third and final verse, but the song in whole is pretty clear. Again, this is someone who has gone through so much. It is just a classic, retro style country blues type work even in its lyrical presentation. That content, coupled with the song’s musical arrangement, makes it a piece that is sure to appeal to plenty of listeners. It will appeal so widely because of that aspect and because, again, it shows that Morton is not just a one-trick pony. It shows he can do quite a bit more than just metal, and can do so quite well at that. It still is not the last of the songs featured in this record that serves to exhibit that talent and interest. ‘Save Defiance,’ the record’s mid-point, is one more example of Morton’s broad range of talent.
‘Save Defiance’ was recorded with Alter Bridge front man Myles Kennedy. Fittingly, this song’s arrangement presents Morton as an able mainstream hard rock driver just as much as a metal guitarist. What is truly interesting here is that the grouping of Morton, Kennedy and the rest of the song’s featured musicians immediately leads to comparisons to some of Alter Bridge’s best works. Again, this is a good thing because it shows how much more Morton can do than just shred really fast and hard. It shows here that he can create some really heavy, melodic riffs, too. Morton’s ability to so easily liken himself to Mark Tremonti shows yet again just why he is such an important figure not just in the rock community, but in the music community in whole. As much as Morton’s abilities do for himself and for the song, they are just one part of what makes the song stand out. The song’s lyrical content plays its own important part to the whole of the song.
Kennedy sings in the song’s lead verse, “Into the last refrain/As your empire falls/World in decay/Our backs against the wall/Tell me, now/Is it too late/Tell me, now/Who’ll pay the cost/For all the times you’ve disengaged/Tomorrow could be lost/Stop what you started/Open your eyes/The truth is the hardest thing to deny.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Save defiance/And hope you’ve got one last shot/Blood of tyrants running cold/They will never stop/Save defiance/You alone will resist in time/Break alliance to behold shifting paradigms/There is no time to waste/This you can’t deny/The truth you embrace was only just a lie/Now do you see you’re betrayed/now you must keep your resolved/Or everything you sacrifice to keep/Will forever be dissolved/Stop what they started/Open your eyes/They’re reaping a harvest/And bleeding you dry.” He reminds listeners in the song’s third verse, “This is your season/Take it and rise/The battle’s drawing/Fight for your lives.” This is a call to action, point blank. This is a socio-political commentary that is urging people everywhere to not sit idly by and allow those who do bad in the world to continue their heinous acts. He is telling listeners to stand up and do something and make a difference. That is at least this critic’s own take on this content. The power and urgency in the song’s musical arrangement works to make this seem the case, so hopefully it is at least somewhere in the proverbial ballpark. Thinking about the power of the song’s combined musical and lyrical content along with that of the power of the other discussed songs’ power and variety, they show clearly together just how talented Mark Morton really is. When the variety and power in the songs discussed here is considered along with that of the rest of the album’s songs, the whole of the record becomes a strong solo debut for Morton. It serves to show regardless of where his future takes him, Morton can and will be successful.
Mark Morton’s debut solo album Anesthetic is a strong first effort from the Lamb of God guitarist. That is because while it does continue to display his metal chops throughout, it does more than that. It also shows his abilities in other regions of the musical universe. That, combined with lyrical content that is just as certain as the record’s musical content to keep listeners engaged, makes the record a positive offering from Morton and all involved. All things considered, the album proves to be a presentation that will leave listeners anything but numb. More information on Anasthetic is available online now along with all of Mark Morton’s latest news and more at:
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