This could be a tricky review not because Desert Psychlist has issues with "The Mortal", the new album from Kansas City's innovative and boundary pushing Merlin, but because trying to lay down in words and make readers realise how damn good this album is will probably make Desert Psychlist sound like some sort of slavering collective of Merlin fanboys (we actually are). So let's start by apologising for the drooling and fawning that may follow this intro piece and hope you will forgive and understand when you hear what "The Mortal" (The Company) has to offer.
Merlin bring to the table not just the usual array of drums, bass guitar and vocals but also sax, flute, various keys and assorted percussion and are joined on "The Mortal" by a trio of guest musicians (Jeremy McClain, Garrett Holm and the oddly titled Bretstradamus) who add to the mayhem with accordions and trumpet. Now with this amount of instrumentation on display you may think that things could get a little chaotic in places and you would be absolutely right, however it is this chaos that is Merlin's greatest asset and the thing they use to their best advantage. Merlin dance a fine line between freedom and form throughout "The Mortal", a line no wider than a razor's edge that sees the band tantalisingly dipping their toes into one discipline only to pull back and dip them, just as tantalisingly, into the other while at the same time managing to precariously balance between the two. Merlin have no peers to be compared against, this is a band who's uniqueness and off centred quirkiness is their signature. a signature sound that no other band out there at the present time comes even remotely close to resembling sonically. From the moody intro "Prologue", with its dissonant drones and classical sounding guitar, through the epic folk/jazz/blues fusion of "Tower Fall", the schizophrenic grooves of "Chaos Blade", the medieval fairground madrigal that is "Metamorphosis" to the spiralling closer "The Mortal Suite" every song is executed with exceptional aptitude and skill and delivered by a band of musicians who understand that in order to make a music "swing" you need to be tight and loose in equal measure, and believe us when we say "The Mortal" is an album that "swings"
Carter Lewis (guitar/ keys/ organ), Stu Kersting (guitar/ saxophone/ flute), Chase Thayer (guitar/ additional percussions), Joey Hamm (bass guitar), Jordan Knorr (vocals/ storytelling/ omnichord) and Randall Tripps (drums/ dark magic) are Merlin, remember those names because with "The Mortal" they may well have made the album of the year!
Check it out ….