Whenever I write about a genre with ‘post’ in it, I always associate this with postmodernism, noting its rejection and questioning of prevalent values and beliefs. I can’t tell you what led people to put ‘post’ in front of rock, metal, or hardcore, but the way artists lumped into these categories critically redefine the nature of these genres merits at least a passing connection to this philosophical stance. Though the Danish quintet møl would more aptly be described as blackgaze than any of the aforementioned kinds of music, their postmodern take on black metal has led to a corrosive yet captivating debut full-length, JORD.
Where much of the black metal/blackened subgenres are hostile and claustrophobic, opener “Storm” inverts this expectation with reverberant delayed guitar lines and a gentle counter melody. The song’s subsequent explosion into more traditional territory provides the welcome contrast that makes blackgaze so intriguing. Airy, uplifting guitar leads persist in constant counterpoint to punky double-time drums and blackened yowls.
The juxtaposition of inspirational melodies and overwhelming bleakness is never more beautifully realized on JORD than with lead single “Penumbra”. Occasionally you hear music that makes you stop in your tracks within seconds. “Penumbra” did exactly that for me. A beautiful wash of reverb and tremolo melodies are matched by Kim Song’s dynamic screams and some effective chording in the song’s starting moment. These first 30 seconds are the highlight of JORD, and my possible musical highlight of 2018 so far. This moment is made all the more effective by the band’s choice not to revisit the section until after the track explores a plethora of crushing directions, finally resolving the song exactly where it started.
Part of what sets møl apart from their more atmospheric peers is their decision to build tension with each song on JORD, increasing each track in intensity until this darkness reaches full saturation with the frenetic “Ligament” and haunting groove of “Virga”. The band does not shy away from their black metal base like some of their contemporaries, but they are never constrained by it either. In this way, all songs here explore both light and its absence in somewhat equal measure. As such, the title track and album closer “JORD” feels like a fittingly ambiguous resolution to the album – have we finally reached a place of calm after 42 minutes of unpredictable storms? The clean, chorus-drenched guitar that closes the album is as gentle as what opens the record, but with a sense of melancholy that refuses to answer this question.
Møl are far from the first band to deconstruct and reassemble the seemingly disparate tenets of shoegaze and black metal into a cohesive whole. However, they do so with command for both genres that is refreshingly energetic. JORD is a critical look at some of the limits of black metal, using it as base from which to build into an inspirational yet turbulent atmosphere.
Notable Tracks: “Penumbra”
FFO: Alcest, Lantlos