Splits continue to be a fantastic way to introduce listeners to new bands. I probably end up mentioning this just about every time that I cover one, but splits have been one of the easiest ways to discover and new groups I hadn’t had the chance to hear yet. This is once again the case with the recently released split between Moros and Black Urn, two fairly new sludge/doom acts from Philadelphia that might just be making some of the bleakest material the city has to offer. Each band only has two releases to their name prior to this split, so chances are you might not have come across them yet if you’re not from the local area. But if you’re a fan of anything sludge and doom related, this is a split you need to hear.
Moros unleashes their three songs first, letting this split bludgeon you in the face right from the start. There are some similarities between the two bands, though on this split Moros takes a noticeably uglier and grittier approach. The instrumentalists waste little time in letting the abrasive tonality and abrasive shrieks cut through you like barbed wire. This is perhaps best exemplified by (vortexwound), which is so incredibly bleak and has some of the most hellish and inhuman vocals I’ve heard since Primitive Man. It’s gritty and is the type of sludge that feels like it’s going to tear you to pieces the longer you listen to it, which I find incredibly appealing. Moros isn’t one-dimensional either though, as there are little bits and pieces of bleak melodies that seep into songs like Corrosive Existence, bringing to mind imagery of complete desolation and ruined, crumbling cities. Like Primitive Man, it’s sometimes hard to believe that there are only three guys making material this crushing and destructive, and I have a feeling that as Moros continues onwards they’re only going to get even more hellish and unhinged.
After Moros has leveled you, it’s Black Urn’s turn with the eight minute track The Spirituality of Elephant Bones. These guys are certainly no strangers to writing longer pieces, having cracked the twelve minute mark on both of their previous releases, but this time around they’ve stretched their sound further outwards and created a dynamic song full of bleakness and despair. You might be expecting that the band will simply kick things off at their heaviest, but instead Black Urn takes the opposite approach, letting acoustic guitar and violin create a soft yet somber intro before hitting you with a dense wall of distortion and harsh vocals. What I like the most about this song is the way it ebbs and flows, letting the distortion and ugly tonality reach peak levels multiple times with natural pauses that let the emotional weight of the riffs sink in. Rather than simply bludgeoning you for its entire eight minutes (which I do admit I wouldn’t have a problem with), Black Urn lets darker melodies and softer breaks intertwine with their destructive moments making this song truly captivating from beginning to end.
The Moros/Black Urn split is out now digitally and on a limited run of cassettes, which you’ll want to grab fast if you want one as they’re limited to 100 copies. To learn more about both bands, I decided to have them both answer questions about each other. Check out their responses below!
Moros Answering Questions About Black Urn
TO: When was the first time you met/played with Black Urn? What was your first impression of them when you saw them perform?
Jay: I’ve known John Jones since before Black Urn and Moros even existed. Anyone rocking a GRIEF patch on their vest is someone I will likely want to talk to at a show. I had the pleasure of doing some shows with them with my other, more or less now dormant band Sunburster. My first impression of the band was pride, watching such a sick new entity form in the scene I am a part of. They are the real deal.
TO: You guys contributed three tracks to the split, while Black Urn has one lengthy eight minute song. Tell us your personal thoughts on Black Urn’s contributions to the split and how it syncs up with your side.
Jay: The Black Urn track is epic. They brought some dynamics to the release, whereas Moros leans on the boneheaded side of things. When that violin hits those final few notes and the electric guitars and vocals kick in gives me goosebumps. I’m a fan.
TO: Last Friday you had a free release show upstairs at Kung-Fu Necktie. Tell us about Black Urn’s set and what the crowd response was like.
Jay: Black Urn’s set was crushing. Maybe my favorite time seeing them, the sound at Kung Fu Necktie is always top notch, and those boys were fucking ON POINT. The crowd was packed and it was a late show, so as you can imagine people were in top drunk head banging form. It was a great night.
TO: Having toured with Black Urn, what are some touring stories you can tell us about? Did you learn any dirty secrets about them?
Jay: WHAT HAPPENS ON THE ROAD STAYS ON THE ROAD! Shit I wish I had something fucked up or funny to say here. We might have to do another road trip together to produce some strange stories…. I know we got it in us.
TO: Philadelphia and the surrounding area currently have a lot of great bands. Where do you feel you and Black Urn fit with what’s happening in the city right now? What are your thoughts on Philly’s metal community as a whole?
Jay: Philly is a city where there might be 3 metal/punk shows in a night. So it is pretty hard to stand out, but I think Black Urn and Moros have done a good job sticking out of the pack and bringing something to the table that doesn’t sound like many other bands around here. I think we both capture the rough and rigid vibe of Philadelphia pretty well. As far as the metal community I feel spoiled here in Philly, I grew up here going to metal punk and hardcore shows since I was a teenager. Although many bands come and go it feels like the Philly metal scene is more of a presence than ever. I feel a personal obligation to keep that going.
Black Urn Answering Questions About Moros
TO: When was the first time you met/played with Moros? What was your first impression of them when you saw them perform?
John Jones: I used to see Jay’s other band Sunburster pretty frequently in Philly and met John/Drew shortly after Moros was formed. First time I got a chance to see them was probably “Detest Fest” in Philly in 2015 shortly after their first record was released. Compared to Jay’s other sludge project Sunburster, I thought they were a lot darker and on the death-side of the sludge spectrum. I was impressed.
TO: You guys contributed one track to the split, but Moros threw in three. Were they trying to one-up you? Which of their tracks on the split stands out to you the most and why?
JJ: As much as I love the spirit of competition I doubt it, haha. We’ve been sitting on The Spirituality of Elephant Bones for years, as early as us being a 3-piece (vox, guitar, drums). This split was the perfect medium to release it, and the 3 shorter songs vs. 1 longer song format just stems from us wanting to mix things up. As far as stand out tracks, (vortexwound) is a perfect representation of who I know the Moros guys as – dudes who get bored easily and like to try new shit, regardless of everyone’s thoughts and opinions. Corrosive Existence evokes memories of people two-stepping to it on tour.
Tim Lewis: I was personally insulted that they did not only one more, but TWO MORE songs than we did. Not very kind of them to one-up (or in this case two-up) us like that. I really thought we were better friends than that.
TO: Last Friday you had a free release show upstairs at Kung-Fu Necktie. Tell us about Moros’ set and what the crowd response was like.
JJ: I kept mentioning that night how that was the most massive sounding I’ve ever heard them. For a 3-piece, it sounded like they had the numbers of Cult of Luna up there. The crowd was all wearing what’s commonly referred to as the “stank-face”, when a riff is disgusting and you feel it festering in your chest. One of the best times I’ve seen them.
TO: Having toured with Moros, what are some touring stories you can tell us about? Did you learn any dirty secrets about them?
JJ: They probably learned more dirty secrets about us than them. They’re laid back/down to earth dudes. Binghampton, NY is always a huge party, and I remember the crowd going apeshit when they played, especially our guitarist Ryan who pushed me into a wall and started crowd-killing when they covered Pentagram.
TO: Philadelphia and the surrounding area currently have a lot of great bands. Where do you feel you and Moros fit with what’s happening in the city right now? What are your thoughts on Philly’s metal community as a whole?
JJ: I feel like us and Moros are on the darker side of the sludge/doom spectrum of Philly’s heavy bands. Personally, Moros is my favorite band in the city, and continues to hold their own, if not outplay anybody on a bill they partake in. Philly has a strong scene. There’s an overwhelming amount of shows each night and people come out and get stupid. Most of the people who have something to say negative about it are in the city, but that criticism often helps regulate it to keep it welcoming. Another great aspect is venues and bands pop up every day.