By: Daniel Jackson
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 4/9/2015
Label: No Solace |
Northern Heritage Records
There are a lot of us that revel in both ends of the spectrum and everything in between, and ‘Exercises in Futility’ is diverse enough to scratch a number of itches all at once. This is musical showmanship woven into the very fabric of conventional melodic black metal, and the results are top notch.
‘Exercises in Futility’ CD//DD//LP track listing:
Exercises in Futility I -VI
M. | Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Darkside | Drums
We’re now about six weeks removed from the 4th September release of ‘Exercises in Futility’ and I’ve had a lot of time to spend with this album. The hype surrounding this album has been pretty high, and even weeks after its release people continue to sing its praises via their social media platform of choice. It’s easy to understand why once you hear it. As black metal albums go, it’s not overly complex, nor is it an impenetrable wall of dissonance like a few of the other well-loved albums of 2015. What makes ‘Exercises in Futility’ so likeable is that it’s so accessible and memorable without ever crossing that dreaded line into commercial pandering. In certain ways, it’s as orthodox a black metal record as you’ll hear this year. But it’s also fully-realized and confident enough to try things that genre purists might dismiss out of hand.
While the two bands are very different stylistically, listening to ‘Exercises in Futility’ reminds me of listening to Tribulation. They share next to no traits at all musically, but because they have a similar security with what they’re doing as a band and a similar ability to put together memorable songs that flow nicely. You could say that that ‘Exercises in Futility’ takes the more melodic and mesmerizing moments of ‘With Hearts Toward None’ and carries those moments out with a flashier execution. On ‘Exercises in Futility’, the drum beats are more creative and varied, throwing in everything from the militaristic snare work on “II” to comparatively plain and standard rock beats. The latter is used to its strongest effect on the leadoff song, almost dipping its toe in the waters of a song like Nachtmystium’s “Ghosts of Grace”. That moment in particular is the mastery of this album in a nutshell. The album constantly flirts with the sort of stylistic elements that get bands called out for dumbing down their sound for mainstream tastes without ever actually committing to it.
With ‘Exercises in Futility’, Mgla rides that fence—dividing the border of orthodox credibility and compromising for popularity’s sake—for all it’s worth. For the most devout of underground black metal devotees, this album may already feel like a step over the line. For those who set up camp on the outskirts of black metal fandom, catching only those who venture well beyond black metal’s strictest musical city limits, this album likely dwells too close to those “scary” urban areas for comfort.
Thankfully, the world’s a varied place, and people are not so easily broken down into opposing factions. There are a lot of us that revel in both ends of the spectrum and everything in between, and ‘Exercises in Futility’ is diverse enough to scratch a number of itches all at once. This is musical showmanship woven into the very fabric of conventional melodic black metal, and the results are top notch.
FFO: Plaga, Kriegsmachine, Akhlys, Furia
Band info: Facebook