When Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton released his debut solo album Anasthetic last March through Spinefarm Records, he more than showed the expanse of his musical abilities and interests. The record, which joined Morton with a number of well-known names, such as the late Linkin Park front man Chester Bennington, Alter Bridge front man Myles Kennedy and ex Screaming Trees front man Mark Lanegan, showed Morton as a truly original and creative musician, not just one of the members of Lamb of God. He followed up that successful offering this past January with his debut solo EP Ether. The five-song EP, released through Rise Records, will get a second life of sorts June 19 when it is released on vinyl through Rise Records. Regardless of whether one prefers vinyl, CD or even digital, the fact of the matter remains that Ether is a positive follow-up to Anasthetic. That is due to the record’s musical and lyrical content. Its penultimate song ‘Love My Enemy’ is one of the songs that serves to support the noted statement. It will be addressed shortly. The EP’s opener ‘All I Had to Lose’ is another way in which Ether shows its strength. It will be addressed a little later. Its follow-up ‘The Fight’ is one more way in which Ether shows its strength. Together with the covers of The Black Crowes’ ‘She Talks To Angels’ and of Pearl Jam’s ‘Black,’ ‘The Fight’ and the other noted songs make Ether a wholly enjoyable follow-up to Anasthetic and one more of this year’s top new EPs.
Mark Morton’s debut EP Ether is a strong follow-up to his debut 2019 album Anasthetic. Much with that album, this EP shows once again why he is more than just a member of Lamb of God, but rather a talented, creative musician in his own right. That is evidenced in part through the EP’s penultimate song, ‘Love My Enemy.’ The song, which features vocals by Howard Jones (Killswitch Engage, Blood Has Been Shed, Light The Torch), presents an interesting musical arrangement. The verses conjure thoughts of Alice in Chains, what with the layered vocal effect and the subdued guitar and drum lines. The chorus however, boasts more of an Alter Bridge type of sound as the guitars and vocals step up. The song’s bass line adds its own touch to the whole to make the work’s composition quite engaging and entertaining in its own right. What is important to note here is the pairing of that duality in the song’s arrangement and its connection to the emotion and message in the song’s lyrical theme. The song’s lyrical theme serves to make that reason for that juxtaposition clear.
Jones sings in the song’s lead verse, “Open wounds before the start/This is where we fall apart/It’s alright/Eternity can die today/It’s alright/It’s okay.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “We can greet the end alone/Sorrow needs an empty home/It’s alright/Years and pain can fade away/It’s alright/It’s okay.” In the song’s third and final verse, “Jones sings, “There’s no replacing/The time we’re wasting.” These verses are deeply introspective, needless to say. That final verse is relatively clear, as it makes a statement about making the most of the time that we have. The first and second verses meanwhile will generate their own hare of interest. Maybe the lead statement of “open wounds before the start/This is where we fall apart” is a statement connected to the note of the wasted time. It’s as if it is making a note about open wounds being a failure from the beginning. The statement in the second verse years and pain being able to fade away seems to perhaps be a statement of hope, that the past can be just that. This is of course all this critic’s own interpretation. The song’s chorus adds even more impact to the song, as it comes across as perhaps someone battling with him/herself. The chorus states, “I can’t live on memories/I can’ love my enemy/We cannot repair the past/A broken heart is made of glass/No, I can’t live on memories.” This seems like someone who is torn with trying to overcome the thoughts of the past and look to the future. It would explain why the song’s musical arrangement is so much more powerful in the chorus than the verses. It would serve to illustrate the subject’s heightened emotion in this moment. This leads the song’s more contemplative counter to those heightened emotions to make more sense along with its musical accompaniment. Again this is all this critic’s own interpretation and should not be taken as gospel. Hopefully it is somewhere close to being correct, though. Keeping all of this in mind, the song’s lyrical content proves just as important as its musical content. All things considered, the song in whole, with its engaging musical and lyrical content shows well on its own, why Ether is another strong offering from Mark Morton. It is just one of the songs that serves to exhibit that strength. ‘All I Had to Lose’ does its own part to keep listeners’ ears and minds.
‘All I Had to Lose’ is important to note because it presents its own unique identity separate from that of ‘Love My Enemy’ and the EP’s other songs. The song’s fully acoustic arrangement is a radio ready composition that will connect easily to audiences. The addition of Sons of Texas front man Mark Morales’ vocal delivery adds to that commercial viability for the opus. The combination of those elements makes the song in whole a work that is comparable to works from so many mainstream rock bands. The appeal created through the song’s musical arrangement will keep listeners engaged, and in turn, paying attention to the song’s equally engaging lyrical content.
The lyrical content featured in ‘All I Had to Lose’ generates its own engagement because of its own contemplative nature. Morales sings in the song’s lead verse, “We were reckless for a season, now/Restless with a reason/I can’t tell/If we were victims of the vices/Or addicted to the crisis/Lived through hell.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “We laid with it/Dead and dying/Told ‘em all we were just trying/To be alive/Closed our eyes/I know that we could leave/The lies we didn’t want to leave behind.” He adds in the song’s third and final verse, “Watched the colors fade away/Reached out by the sun/left her for another day/Prayed it would never come.” The precise concept here is not clear at least to this critic. It comes across as something of a statement about perhaps someone taking things for granted in life. Whether that is in relation to a personal relationship or something else is up for discussion. It would be interesting to learn the exact relation of that seeming message. That Morales sings in the song’s chorus, “And when you came up for breath/I knew there wasn’t nothing left to do but choose/And everything I lost/Wasn’t much compared to all I had to lose” adds to the argument that the song’s lyrical theme is a personal message about taking for granted what one has in life. Again, what exactly was being taken for granted – whether it be a personal relationship or something else – is something that is left for interpretation. Either way, the fact that this seems to be the message makes the song’s musical content couple well with this half of the song’s content. Taking everything noted here into account, the whole of the song shows even more why Ether will keep listeners engaged from start to end. It is just one more way in which Ether proves its appeal. ‘The Fight’ is one more way in which the EP shows its strength.
‘The Fight’ is an interesting addition to Ether. That is due in part to its overall musical arrangement. This composition is so starkly opposite of any of the other songs featured in this record. The verses are distinctly subtle, but not necessarily reserved per say. There is a certain Sevendust-esque sense to the song from the band’s more recent works, in listening closely to the arrangement. The chorus meanwhile pack a little bit more of a punch, but it’s not a knockout punch. Even in this case, there is a certain amount of control. It makes for a very interesting listen. It is not necessarily a radio ready work, but still is worth hearing. That unique arrangement couples well with the song’s equally engaging lyrical theme, which comes across as one of those songs about someone driving along and having enough time to contemplate a lot of life matters.
Moontooth front man John Carbone provides the vocals for this song. His vocal delivery is comparable to that of Sevendust front man Lajon Witherspoon as he sings in the song’s lead verse, “Thundering down the cold, dark desert road/It ain’t the miles you’re looking at/Ain’t the pavement you see/But its ghost/And all the trials that lay ahead/Yeah, it becomes your only friend.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Rumbling ground/It shakes from the load/the burden that you live to bear/Deafening sound, it rings in your soul/Make you forget what brought you here/Now the ending ain’t so clear.” While the song’s musical arrangement doesn’t quite do so, this portion of the song leaves one making comparisons to Bob Seger’s hit song ‘Turn The Page.’ It seems to have that same kind of lyrical approach; someone on the road, lots of thoughts on the mind, etc. etc. etc. It is an interesting sort of update, although it likely was not intended. The comparison is strengthened even more as Carbone sings in the song’s chorus, “When you live for the fight for too long/You burn for the bloody way out/But the only hope for a victory/Is to learn to lay it down.” It’s as if he is saying, even with all the thinking and things on a person’s mind, a person may want a certain outcome, but the outcome we want may not always be the best outcome. Again, this is all this critic’s interpretation. Hopefully it is in the proverbial ballpark. That aside, all of this is sure to generate its own share of discussion among listeners. Together with its accompanying musical content, the engagement and entertainment ensured through the song’s musical and lyrical content shows once more why Ether succeeds overall. Together with the two covers that join this work and the EP’s two other originals, the record overall proves itself to be a complete work and a complete success for Morton and company.
Mark Morton’s recently released EP Ether is a strong follow-up to his debut solo album Anasthetic (2019). That is because it continues to exhibit Morton’s talents as more than just another metal guitarist, but a widely-versed musician and songwriter. That is evidenced through all three of the record’s original works and its two covers. The musical and lyrical content in each original as well as the adaptation of the covers do well to support those statements. All things considered, Ether can be considered in whole, to be one of this year’s top new EPs.
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