Morgan Rider blends folk, metal, and fantasy with Musiikki show, new album

Morgan Rider returns to Kingston tonight for a solo show at Musiikki Cafe. While the focus will be his “laid-back, haunting folk” sound, Kingston audiences may have seen him before with his more heavy metal-based project Vesperia at The Mansion or Overtime. As a solo artist, he’s played at Musiikki several times.

“I always look forward to coming back to Kingston,” said Rider. “It’s an awesome town. There’s an exciting art-centric community. At Musiikki, there’s a nice built-in audience that is very supportive of the arts. It makes a lot of sense for what I do, all these projects. I have a great relationship with Liam and everyone at Musiikki, and it’s great to see familiar faces when you’re on the road.”

Rider is currently touring around Ontario in support of the new album from his band Morgan Rider and The Deep Dark River. Leviathan & The Deep Dark Blue (North Soul Records) drops tomorrow, and is a direct successor to King of the Forest, which they released in June.  Both albums, and most of Rider’s work, are thematically centred around a mythology of his own creation in a fantastical alternate timeline and dimension of Earth of Rider’s creation. The lyrics of the songs will form the basis of a series of stories that Rider intends to put into novel form in the future. 

“I’m collecting all these stories and ideas, and really building the fantasy,” said Rider. “Musically, there is what I called a ‘quadrilogy.’ Each chapter is a particular story centralized around a mythological guardian, which are legendary versions of classic Canadian animals like the wolf, the bear, the whale. Each story is about them in the height of their power, and as the new age of the world comes to be, their power is dwindling.”

As a fantasy reader myself, I immediately thoughts of Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, both of which heavily incorporate song into the storytelling and myth-building in the respective worlds of Temerant and Middle-earth.

“I’m hugely influenced by the Kingkiller Chronicle and The Lord of the Rings,” said Rider. “All of the songs I’m writing are part of the fantasy world. I’m hoping to find time for novel writing soon.”

Rider is a bit of a mercurial musician, switching between solo shows and either duo or trio arrangements. Tonight’s show is a solo one, seeing Rider alternate between acoustic guitar and dobro as he plays “low-key acoustic versions” of his full-band recordings.

“My solo act is definitely folk,” he said. “And I’ll play some blues and soul. With The Deep Dark River, we don’t stick to any particular genre. A lot of what we’ve done is kind of a dark folk, but our album coming out on Friday is more metal. The next album will be no guitars, just piano. The sound of the band is really all of our tastes combined and not sticking to any particular genre.”

The last time Rider was in Kingston, the band played on the Musiikki courtyard patio, despite an ominous weather report.

“There was a tornado warning,” recalled Rider. “We decided to try it outside anyway, and we had a decent crowd, but near the end of the first set, it really started to pour. We got all of our gear inside but we played the rest of the night soaking wet.”

Morgan Rider performs at Musiikki Cafe tonight at 8 p.m. The first single from the new album is available now on Soundcloud, and Leviathan & The Deep Dark Blue arrives tomorrow on all major streaming and download services. 

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