Title: Age of Excuse
Label: Northern Heritage Recordings/No Solace
Release Date: 2 September 2019
Format reviewed: Digital
“Is it possible that existence is our exile and nothingness our home?”
What would life be if we were devoid of the courage to perform anything acquisitive? With great comprehension comes great nullity. Only those find happiness in the universe whose lives circle around fulfilling the indispensable necessities of life. On the other hand, those who drown themselves in the search for a divine elucidation in a never-ending procession of myriad spirits through a mystic fen….what about them? Eventually, they stumble upon the cold, hard, eternal truth..and that is there is nothing of that sort to start with. They eventually start to feel incapable of feeling the aesthetical pleasures of life. They would also like to connect to something…to relate to something metaphysical, yet all they grasp is black void. It’s like a blind man searching for something but gripping nothing. If you are one of those cursed souls to whom life is just a walking shadow, a tale full of fury without any significance and you seek salvation in some utopian universe beneath this universe created of perplexity and decay,then welcome to the frosty sphere of MGŁA (fog) where absolute nihilism surges in the form of supreme black metal artistry.
Mikołaj Żentara (M.) has been always intrigued by this strong urge to despair and negate, this ennobling vision of denial. From the inception of Kriegsmaschine, he has been exploring the realms of Spenglerism and Nietzscheism in his writing. His lyrics are not typical short bursts of attempted infernal poetry,they are more like a flowing social commentary divided up into paragraphs rather than verses. But however good they are, lyrics alone cannot take a band to an astronomical hight if the music doesn’t hit you in the right spot. So what sets MGŁA musically apart from stereotypical black metal bands musically?
When M. was asked how he would describe the music of MGŁA, he said, “MGŁA is black metal-simple as that. To us, black metal is a very natural and fitting way of expression for the sorts of emotion we need to express”.If you go through the catalog of MGŁA, the one thing you will notice that they have always kept evolving..even though remaining true to the core of nihilistic, intransigent black metal. The first EP “Presence” was a brutal yet sorrowful journey with one after another melancholic riff surrounded in an ice-cold atmosphere. The following EPs “Midlosci” and “Further Down The Nest” introduced a more primeval, barbaric edge to the sound with lot more aggression and venomous riffing. Then arrived the first full-length “Groza” which made a return to the KRIEGSMASCHINE soundscape which is less about brutality and blast beats..more about creating a hypnotic and almost psychedelic atmosphere with groovy, dissonant riffs played in a not so fast speed. It’s like a story of sorrow, abomination and rejection is drowning you somewhere beyond the realm of your sanity. Then came “With Hearts Toward None” and “Exercises in futility” where (especially in “Exercises in Futility”) they transcended all their earlier works. The compositions got more diverse and compact, the tremolos were more memorable and the overall atmosphere was more suffocating. Though their riffs may seem repetitive for a long period to some, they always create a melancholic yet misanthropic atmosphere by merging hypnotic dissonance with haunting tremolo lines. The way they use different sections of the fretboard to create different overtone has produced some of the most mesmerizing tremolo lines ever. Just listen to the last two tracks of “Exercises in futility”.The tremolo line after the acoustic intro of track VI is more mellifluous and euphonious in nature which gives an amicable flow of aspiration in the face of tribulation and misery. On the other hand, the post-verse tremolo line of track V feels like a jarring, horrifying, vicious reverberation of approaching apocalypse.
Another distinctive aspect of MGŁA is the drumming of Darkside. The way he makes his Toms and Cymbals talk instead of just going through the motions with the hi-hat, snare and bass kick is second to none. Even if he is playing a simple quarter-note beat, he will break it into different fragments with unpredictable Tom and quintessential Cymbal hits. So even if the same riff is going on for a longer time interval, his captivating drumming always sustains intriguing suspense in the overall sonic experience. His drumming also gives a distinct sense of restraint. Regardless of what punishing tempo the nihilistic atmosphere would seem to evoke, he always keeps the rhythms remarkably controlled. That suits well with the vocal deliveries of M. which also reminds of the word restraint. His vocal chord will go over the edge in some rare occasions but most of the times it sounds like a forlorn soul tired of spurious nature of the mankind. He is not screaming,instead, he is just rambling some bleak words of dejection, reciting some crestfallen poetry of promises broken.
So now what about “Age of Excuse”? Did it reach or even exceed the level of “Exercises in Futility”? Well after the first listen, I thought that it was not the case. But what I stupidly failed to understand is AOE and EIF can not be compared because MGŁA evolved again and took a different approach here. They took the essences of their earlier works and surrounded them in a more gloomy yet melodic soundscape..more harmonies, less harshness. If you are looking for more primal, the misanthropic sound of MGŁA, it’s still there..but only in bits and parts. What they did here is just sticking with the dissonant, deviant guitar sound of KRIEGSMASCHINE and miscellaneous tremolo journies of MGŁA but taking them to an even higher level with astounding musicianship. Some of the dissonance (like in track III, track V) M. produced here are some of his best works till now. They give a sensation of some subdued noise from a haunting asylum where sanity took last breath a long time ago.
Here M. put more emphasis on creating more dreary, more hallucinogenic atmosphere by the use of subtle melodies which was best demonstrated at the chorus section of track II. Track II is one of the stand-out tracks here with lots of hypnotizing riffs and tremolos and a more intense atmosphere. But what gives the song such awesomeness to me is the little melancholic plucking beneath all the chaos in the chorus section. It gives a sense of yearning for little light but then remembering my damned presence will blind the light….frighteningly beautiful.
This shift on more melodic approach can also be noticed on the build-up of track V and track VI. Track V starts with a grief-stricken atmosphere with a clean voice in the background uttering some words of despondency…the lyrics, the atmosphere and the sorrowful voice all complement each other so majestically..it’s like “the living dead staring at the gaping void” indeed. But the hopeless atmosphere will soon descend into the before-mentioned dissonant lunacy in the verses and pyrrhic tremolo squall in the chorus section. The way the thinner strings’ mellow notes creep into the startling atmosphere created by harsher, inanimate notes in the chorus section is one of the things what makes this band so special to me. It creates such strikingly different spectrum of emotions…it’s a reminder that there can be no love without loss, no light without darkness. This is one of those non-linear songs of the band where they repeat the same pattern multiple times. Hence the accusation of being “repetitive” by some. But there are so many layers, so many inner beauties lying beneath each part that they make it worthwhile to revisit the same progression again and again.
Talking about non-linear song structures, another track that required multiple listens to truly get into is the opening track of the album. It’s more in the alley of “Groza”-era MGŁA. It starts with unsettling gnashing of teeth which represents rage, hatred, even mockery to the human race. Then the dissonant rhythm kicks off the album with a mid-tempo…the story of an aspiration for an idyllic dream slating into darkening oblivion will be unraveled from now on.
“A species had been armed with a double-edged blade..
A guardless weapon of disillusion…….”
From the moment the verses start, suffocating clean guitar melodies start to chaperone the dissonance to explore a ceremonial hollowness…a tale of some broken, exploding, scarred stars…
“From the gardens of Semiramis..
To the trenches of Ypres…
A meaningless uproar……”
Then out of nowhere, there is a sudden rupture of a primordial hubris with the entrance of a fiery tremolo run around 4:34 mark…a yearning to break the boundaries of materiality, running aimlessly to explore what’s beyond all the hopelessness. But the ceremonial hollowness will never escape you which you will meet again at the breakdown around 5:50 mark….the reverberating snare artistry of Darkside along with the sunken dissonance will make you feel like Armageddon is nigh and you can do nothing but accept and embrace it.
Track IV is the most straight-forward, vicious, primal track of the record. It’s blistering and ghastly like the earlier MGŁA. The opening riff of track III is also hyperborean as fuck which reminds of “Further Down The Nest I”.That disdainful riff soon gives way for the before-mentioned dissonant paranoia. There is also a slender, piercing tremolo line in track III which suits the kaleidoscopic atmosphere perfectly.
Now let’s talk about the final track of the album. MGŁA have established this tendency of finishing an album with an absolute banger. The finishing tracks of both WHTN and EIF were monumental, albeit in different ways.“WHTN VII” started with a prolonged, harrowing, scathing riff which then unfurled into all sorts of sonorous turmoil.“EIF VI” started with a weeping acoustic intro before all the tremolo elegance took center-stage. Well, “AOE VI” is as grand, as monumental as those tracks but it could not be more different. The first half of this track is a testimony of the more melodic approach they took in this album. The build-up of the song almost feels like a Dark Tranquility song with a nebulous soundscape created by some grim melodies. Just listen to the tangled guitar line after the first verses which will be repeated later too..the little single notes here beneath all the delirium even evokes the image of “Fearless” by Pink Floyd. But eventually, the serene, restrained atmosphere will descend into the inevitable chaos which will lurk into the atmosphere with that insanely beautiful Tremolo run when M. screams his heart out “What has to be done….has to be done” for the first time. The primordial, wrathful sonic experience will finally be fully unleashed with a shivering, haunting riff and the misanthropic, apathetic words of M. which sound more like a prophecy…
“Empires get wrecked…
Principles get crashed…
Saviors get crucified…
History gets what?…
History fucking gets over it all….”
From that point on, it’s uncompromising, unapologetic, hypnotizing structured chaos. From lower octaves to higher octaves, thicker strings to thinner strings, melancholy to indignation …it’s a mesmerizing streamlet of antithetical emotions…it’s black fucking metal.
So is “Age of Excuse” better than “Exercises in Futility”? I don’t know that, but what I know is it surely is as special as “Exercises in Futility”, but in a different way. It’s colder, more sorrowful, more dreamy, more depressingly melodic. The music and lyrics are as woebegone as the mesmerizing artwork by Zbigniew M. Bielak-The rider of a pale horse of death is holding a blade and hiding his face…He is gonna obliterate a wretched human race. There is a sense of repugnance in the air…there is a chant of desolation coming out of some damned ravens…there is an opaque fog layer absorbing us which speaks of shattered hopes, forsaken dreams, and boundless emptiness. 10/10 Apollo
10/10 Immortal Classic
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