April 13, 2018

Møl - Jord

By Justin C. If you've read anything about Møl's debut album Jord, you've no doubt heard "Deafheaven," "Alcest," and "blackgaze" bandied about. I'll admit, I'm a sucker for that sweet mash up of shoegaze waves of sound and black metal shrieks
By Justin C.


If you've read anything about Møl's debut album Jord, you've no doubt heard "Deafheaven," "Alcest," and "blackgaze" bandied about. I'll admit, I'm a sucker for that sweet mash up of shoegaze waves of sound and black metal shrieks, although I know both the genre tag and some of it's better-known practitioners get people's hackles up. I don't know if Møl is going to change anybody's diehard opinion on that, but before you skip ahead, let me at least tell you how they stand out.

To my ears, Møl pulls influence from music a little bit older than shoegaze. Sure, mentions of Slowdive in the promo materials are apt--I can hear a little bit of that--but Møl's melodic sensibilities come out of 80s pop and goth as much as 90s shoegaze. The clean guitar line that opens the album could have come from The Cure or Depeche Mode, although it doesn't stay in that vein for very long. There’s plenty of heavy here, though. "Vakuum," for example, starts out with some nasty old metal riffs, but keep listening to the chorus of the song, blanketed with prominent synths and poppy melody, and tell me you can't imagine this song on The Breakfast Club soundtrack. Granted, it would have been a much gnarlier movie, one in which Ally Sheedy's character probably would have killed one of the other students, but it would have been a lot more interesting.

Photos by Mariann Libach Burup.

And this is what makes Møl interesting. It's as if they decided to take the most inoffensive synth pop as a basic template and angry it the hell up. Not that there isn't plenty of heavy to be found. "Ligament," probably my favorite track on the album, starts out as heavy as they come, blasting with shrieks and growls before gradually morphing into a sound that I called "shimmery" in my notes, before coming back to full aggression mode. There's even a bit of lovely clean singing later in the song that twists in and out with the shrieks. It's harsh, meditative, and uplifting all at the same time.

Mixing black metal and 80s synth pop shouldn't work, but it does, and it's so damn catchy. It doesn't hurt that Møl cleverly avoids some of the excesses of their peers--there's only one instrumental interlude, "Lambda," and it's lovely, and the tracks are relatively short, much like the pop songs they take influence from. No long, wandering interludes here. The whole album is laser focused and well paced. Even if you think you're done with blackgaze (or never wanted anything to do with it in the first place), Jord is well worth checking out.

April 9, 2018

Messa - Feast for Water

By Calen Henry. Messa's debut, Belfry made waves. Their occult blues from hell, rooted in 60's rock as much as 70's proto-metal, sounded like an apocalyptic coven worshiping at the altar of Jefferson Airplane, SunnO))), and Black Sabbath.
By Calen Henry.


Messa's debut, Belfry made waves. Their occult blues from hell, rooted in 60's rock as much as 70's proto-metal, sounded like an apocalyptic coven worshiping at the altar of Jefferson Airplane, SunnO))), and Black Sabbath. Delivering equal measures of riff mastery and experimental ambient weirdness, it was one of 2016's best doom records and made them a kind of torchbearer for "weird doom".

Feast for Water once again delivers the doom. Messa lay down riffs that go almost exactly as expected, but always slightly askew, keeping things interesting. The guitar solos, rooted in psychedelic blues, writhe and twist in ways many metal guitarists can't manage and Sara's powerful vocals pull it all together. The doom never loses the melody, letting the weird be weird.

And they bring the weirdness. Not content with their ambient psych doom from Belfry, Messa have branched out even further, bringing in jazzy moments, black metal, and noise. Some of the changes are clear right from the start. After an ominous low string opening over the sound of flowing water, opener "Naunet" builds into a climax of static before breaking. Any album that opens like a clipping. album has my attention.

"Snakeskin Drape" the album's first real song reassures listeners that Messa still bring the fuzz and the riffs before "Leah" breaks everything apart. Much of the track is classic Messa, big riffs a ripping solo, and great vocals but after opening with some SunnO))) worship (if they hadn't strayed so far from Goatsnake) it breaks into a laid back groove with jazzy keys that wouldn't be out of place on a Jaga Jazzist album. Sara's lovely vocals work astonishingly well over their newfound jazziness making the numerous other forays into it across the album seems natural rather than silly or gimmicky.

Apart from "Leah", "Tulsi" is the band's biggest departure. Still weirdly cohesive, it shows Messa's trademark sound expanded with echoes of Vhol; raspy vocals, chromatic tremolo runs, and spacey sludgey riffs, before breaking into an extended saxophone solo. As with the rest of the album, Sara commands all with her vocals and they keep the disparate parts together.

Few bands can take an already diverse sound, exponentially diversify it, and keep it so cohesive. Though they sound quite different, the result is reminiscent of Boris. Both bands mix heavy rock with seemingly whatever else takes their fancy, and make it work. Messa make weird doom even weirder and it's absolutely wonderful. Not everyone will want to be along for the ride, and if you're not Monolord have got your back for straightforward doom. Those up for the weirdness will be amply rewarded for their adventurousness.

April 8, 2018

Foehammer - Second Sight

By Matt Hinch. Technically Foehammer's self-titled release from three years ago (almost to the day) is considered an EP as it only has three tracks. Put them together and it breaches the 30-minute barrier. That sort of song length carries over
By Matt Hinch.

Artwork by Luciana Nedelea.

Technically Foehammer's self-titled release from three years ago (almost to the day) is considered an EP as it only has three tracks. Put them together and it breaches the 30-minute barrier. That sort of song length carries over to their debut LP, Second Sight. This time we get four songs encompassing a punishing 46 minutes with closer “The Seer” clocking in at 16:40. Heaving riffs and heavy tone lay a severe beating on the listener as the guttural vocals and heavy-handed percussion tie the sludgy doom package together.

Foehammer immediately set out to crush skulls with slow, plodding doom. Their amps give off a constant call for death with a pounding cadence that doesn't quit and rarely speeds up. It's far from boring though as some riffs come across as slightly off-kilter. Not easy to do at funereal speeds as that kind of thing can get trickier than you think.

Often time they throw in a little flair. An atypical lick here and there and usually a solo too. The solos reveal a soul behind a solid wall of nasty, downtuned distortion. They scream of ache, betraying a visage of muscularity and an m.o. of sonic destruction. Even the riffs contradict the anger factor with despair and pain.

They're not afraid to lighten things up though. At least temporarily. “Axis Mundi” starts with a nice acoustic passage before laying down some drone and a more epic feel reminiscent of Conan. Interestingly enough, Conan has a song called “Foehammer”. Common inspiration is likely not a coincidence.

Elsewhere, early Pallbearer shades the crawling, sprawling doom giving the listener something to hold on to during what could easily become an endurance test in less capable hands.

To be honest though, you come to Foehammer to have your head caved in by brutal, relentless, bone-shattering doom riddled with a dirty tone and enough volume to shake foundations. Second Sight delivers all that with the kind of heaviness that causes gravity wells powerful enough to bring down the sky. It's a bruising effort that methodically pulverizes while making you feel like a powerful (yet perhaps complex) tyrant at the same time. If Foehammer slipped by you those many moons ago then maybe it's time you take another look with Second Sight.