I was aware of two meanings of the word 'morion'. Unfortunately, these covered a kind of beetle, and the rather fetching helmets traditionally modelled by Spanish conquistador types - either of which, conceivably, could be turned into attractive mirror shapes, but would still be a rubbish name for a band. So it came as some relief that a third meaning was waiting to be discovered: this being a type of smoky quartz, which not only makes more sense as an adjective, it sounds a whole lot better as a moniker. Ahead of the game already: I hadn't even opened the CD before learning something new.
There are some other things to be learned, too. Mirror Morionis are a six-piece of Russian Atmospheric Doomsters who have been together since 2010, although various band members have served with other Tomsk-based groups for longer than that. This, their debut release, has lyrics based around a Ukrainian novel "Skrut", about the betrayal of a loved one. And they favour fey nicknames that perhaps sounded better pre-translation, such as Mirror, Cataract, Gothfather (presumably not THE Peter Murphy, though) and...erm...Gilbert, who may be letting the side down a little there.
Presented as a tidy, informational package by Endless Winter, the booklet includes all lyrics - in English, as they are sung, which bear the usual minor idiosyncracies and errors of writing in a foreign tongue with a certain charm rather than grating - along with credits for the source material and guest musicians, and lots of sepia-tinted pictures of trees. The CD itself comes with a strikingly clear mix and production (mastered by Juan Escobar, ex-of Mar De Grises) ideally suited to the stately, layered atmospherics of the music.
I've called that Atmospheric Doom above, for convenience. It is, broadly, just that, but in a style that is a little hard to quantify: the band cite Remembrance and Lethian Dreams as particular influences, and, indeed, draw from both the former's Funeral pace and the latter's female-vocalled, slightly symphonic Gothic flourishes. The result sounds more polished and European than the often quite folk-influenced flavour of Russian Atmospheric bands, such as the Autumn collective - although the (presumably synthesised) strings such as at the start of 'When Mirror Cries' do also lean on that heritage.
If that isn't exactly a boundary-shattering innovation, it doesn't need to be. Except to the most jaded of ears, there is always room for a well-executed example of an existing or familiar genre. And this is where Mirror Morionis excel, delivering compositions that are both mature and displaying a formidable array of musical weaponry. Despite the large number of performers involved, the sound is an uncluttered and distinct one that gives all instruments space to breathe. It's a little surprising, given the lush and perfectly-fitting textures added throughout by the keyboard, that this is all guest-work. Still, it makes for a great complement to the interesting, deliberately chunky bass lines and precise, ornamented drumbeats, and underwrites the clean, often soaring, vibrant guitars. The vocals, perhaps the most Gothic overtone, mix the expected clean/harsh male contributions with high and clean female, but also throw in some wordless choral moments. Sampled effects of running water and wind bracket the songs with neatly-integrated emphasis, adding an organic feel to the evolution of the storyline as it wends between the ominous opener 'Towards The Woe' and desolate closer 'Towards The Loss Within'.
In between those largely-instrumental pieces, the centrepiece of the album is the 14-minute monument of 'Her Morion Eyes', a dignified and cruelly emotive lament for the end of love. Either side of that, the album builds towards tragedy then arcs away into regret and loss, both moods crafted with a rather lovely equal and symmetric melancholy and in which the stand-out tracks 'Inner Waste' and 'Graves Filled With My Dreams' showcase the full range of the band's ability to vary melody and pace.
As a debut, I'd have to describe 'Eternal Unforgiveness' as, quite simply, exceptional. In terms of capturing a concept and mood of exquisite and beautiful sorrow, though the music isn't especially comparable, it strikes a chord similar to The Morningside's excellent 'Treelogia'. And in musical terms, not only is it better than one would have a right to expect from newcomers, but better than many established takes on the Gothic-tinged Atmospheric genre. Thoroughly recommended.