Album Title: Jord
Label: Holy Roar Records
Date Of Release: 13 April 2018
Before I started writing about rock and metal, I’ll be honest and admit that I thought I knew quite a bit about these genres. It turns out that I knew nothing; or at least, I had only scratched the surface, because on a weekly basis, possibly even more frequently, I am presented with another band or artist about which I know nothing. This realisation is a tough one to accept sometimes and I often ponder whether I should change my website name to ‘Man of Some Metal’ to avoid misleading people.
On the flip side, I also find this revelation very exciting. Not a week goes by when I am not hearing new things and broadening my horizons. This is great, because it keeps me on my toes and prevents this hobby of mine from getting boring. With a steady stream of quality new music heading my way, I feel fresh and invigorated, occasionally a little overwhelmed!
MØL are the latest new discovery to pass my way and I only became aware of them when the promo link was attached to an email relating to an entirely different artist dealt with through the PR company in the UK. It seemed to me that my PR contact genuinely really liked the band and, when coupled with a description that mentioned ‘blackgaze’, I had to check it out.
What is even more delicious about this discovery is the fact that ‘Jord’ is MØL’s debut album, because I find that there’s something more magical about catching a band early in their career. Having said that, the Danish quintet from Aarhus have been around since 2012, releasing two EPs in that time, as well as making their presence known on the live circuit. But now, with ‘Jord’, the five-piece comprised of vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf, guitarists Nicolai Hansen and Frederik Lippert, bassist Holger Rumph-Frost and drummer Ken Klejs, are ready to unleash their first full-length vision upon the world.
And, speaking as someone who has a fondness, possibly even a weakness for that blend of extreme metal and ambient/shoegaze known simply as ‘blackgaze’, MØL are an extremely exciting proposition. And the reason this young band are so exciting is because they have brought an undeniable freshness to a subgenre that perhaps no-one knew was needed until ‘Jord’ came along.
The thing that I find MØL do so well and indeed, so effortlessly, is ensure that the two disparate elements of the genre get a fair crack of the whip. Some exponents of the genre may be guilty of overplaying one of the elements to the detriment of the other, usually ending up with a dilution of the more extreme aspect. MØL however, don’t do this. If anything, the extreme element takes precedence on this record, leading to a debut album that certainly has a sharp set of teeth. However, the real skill demonstrated here is the way in which such an aggressive-sounding output remains completely accessible and rarely daunting. For someone who loves big melodies, atmosphere and emotion in their music, I find that MØL do not disappoint me in this respect at all.
With its intriguing ‘Twin Peaks’ style opening, I’m caught a little off guard with the opening track, ‘Storm’. However, within a minute, I’m smiling broadly as I’m punched in the face by a savage and raw blast of black metal ferocity. The high-pitched screams pierce through the jagged riffs and frenetic drumming that sit just beneath, but even at this point, MØL do not abandon melody, allowing it to emerge and underpin the thunderous tumult. Indeed, the last segment of this track is given over entirely to pure ambient territory, where vast vistas are painted in the mind’s eye of the listener and where the screams are but whispers of malevolent intent upon the breeze.
‘Penumbra’ follows and is an entirely more immediate beast that cleverly intertwines a memorable melody with more savage intensity. The vocals flit between higher-pitched screams and something a little deeper and more robust, as the track gradually extricates itself from the more overt melodies to create an altogether more menacing vibe. It is relatively short-lived as the mid-way point sees MØL returning to beautiful, esoteric ambient climes led by clean guitars and gorgeously delicate synths alongside a minimal rhythmic accompaniment. The finale returns full circle to the more immediate melodies of the son’s opening, at which point I’m deeply impressed.
It is here also that another of MØL’s secret weapons is exposed, namely the ability to create a varied and rich sonic tapestry within a framework of surprising brevity. Blackgaze is often littered with compositions that veer into lengthy territory, sometimes upwards of seven/eight minutes plus. Not so here. ‘Jord’ is comprised of eight tracks with a running time of around 42 minutes, where only one song hits the six-minute mark. However, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the record was far longer given the sheer amount of music that’s crammed into it. To me, that’s impressive and ensures that MØL make the biggest impact possible and helps to prevent listeners from losing interest too soon.
Back to the songs themselves and the quiet, introspective intro to ‘Bruma’ is sublime, especially when it is so starkly juxtaposed with an uncompromising breakneck blast-beat-led blitzkrieg. The ensuing slower-paced section, complete with a return to the opening melody is exquisite, made all the more powerful thanks to a reprise after another swift sojourn into raw black metal territory. The way in which this song twists and turns whilst maintaining a firm structure is incredible and means it has to be one of the finest moments on an already excellent album.
Elsewhere, ‘Vakuum’ has an altogether dirtier blackened thrash feel to it overall, despite a foray into far more bright and breezy territory in places. In contrast, the instrumental piece ‘Lambda’ is utterly beautiful, containing some of the most uplifting and heart-warming melodies I’ve heard within this subgenre. The subtle and ethereal clean vocals that appear within ‘Ligament’ are a joy to hear, adding further variety to proceedings, whilst the closing title track shows us all one last time just how adept and comfortable MØL are at creating memorable music whilst testing the boundaries at the same time.
I can fully understand why my PR contact was so desperate for MØL to reach the ears of as many reviewers as possible. The reason is simple: ‘Jord’ is an exceptionally good debut album, too good to pass us by, particularly those of us who are fans of the blackgaze movement. Based on the quality evident within ‘Jord’, I think it is perfectly reasonable in years to come, to see the name MØL sat comfortably alongside the likes of Alcest and Deafheaven as the very best that the genre has to offer. I may or may not be proved right, but one thing is for certain: I shall be following this band very closely to find out.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse