A very late-in-the-year find, but quite a good one nonetheless, and if you love Jim Morrison and what he did with the Doors, then you will also enjoy Morrison Graves’ debut album, Division Rising.
About Division Rising
This trio of Oregonian musicians (Gary Jimmerson, Ryan Brown, Robert Bartleson) released Division Rising on December 10th, 2022, a solid album that pulls in influences from surf, The Doors, psych, indie rock, and much more.
According to their Bandcamp profile, “Division Rising is a concept album about gentrification, displacement, homelessness, and socioeconomic gaps.”
I like that this album takes on important issues with its concept, as it adds a sense of legitimacy to the lyrical content that some concept albums just don’t have.
Starting about halfway into the album was one of my favorite tracks, “A Puppet Dance,” this song has a western movie soundtrack mixed with a surf-psych vibe that I find really appealing. This is weird for me, but I actually prefer the sections of the song that don’t utilize any fuzz tones, mainly because the guitar tone during the verse parts is wonderful. I want to add that the fuzz tones are also excellent, and the riffs where it’s used are very cool.
But it’s the vocals that are the high point of the track, I love the melody they provide, and the word choices are quite well-suited to the song. I love the word “sycophant,” and it gets used throughout this track to describe the villain the lyrics center on.
Moving back to the album’s beginning, we find “Crane Song.”
Beginning with a surf meets R.E.M. meets The Doors sound, “Crane Song” opens the album up nicely. From the tone of the guitar parts, and the performance of each musician, to the production quality, this song is pretty fantastic. Much like “A Puppet Dance,” I enjoyed the wetness of the verse guitars and how they compliment the distorted tones’ fuzziness.
“Invincible” sits at the third track and is another of the album’s highlights. The way Morrison Graves writes their music is super catchy, and this is one of the more memorable tracks thanks to the vocal melodies used. The western surf-psych feel is dominant, but there is a Queens of the Stone Age feel in the chorus sections and vocal performance that feels right at home with the rest of the song.
“Ghost Town” was the next to grab my attention, with its serious Doors overtones and a great use of their influences while writing it. The galloping feel of the bass guitar reminds me of a Doors track whose name eludes me at the moment, but it really adds to the urgency that this song creates as it leads to the first verse, which doesn’t begin until around the halfway point of the song, and are the shortest lyrics on Division Rising.
“Cut By the Same Cloth” is also one of the better tracks on this album. There seems to be a solid psych-surf feel that flows underneath things, plus there is a punk rock tone, which is another thing that I heard sporadically on the 12 tracks that make up this record.
There seems to be a lot of music on this record that relies on an almost cinematic sound, centered within the “spaghetti western” sounds; once they add in their other influences, that sound becomes slightly less easy to perceive, but not really either.
There were a couple of songs that I found to be lacking the same power, but with 9 or 10 others to choose from, it didn’t really affect how much I enjoyed this record either.
This review was written by Tom Hanno, who has been writing reviews for the last 7 years but has been sharing his love of music for the majority of his life. Originally starting out at the now defunct Chimera Magazine, he is currently contributing to Doomed and Stoned, The Sleeping Shaman, The Doom Charts, Tom’s Reviews, and The Third Eye. Read more of Tom’s reviews by checking out his Linktree.