Mgła – Exercises in Futility

Mgła (pronounced ‘mg-wah’) are a Polish black metal band that began back in 2000. Their very first release was as part of the legendary 2005 split/compilation album ‘Crushing the Holy Trinity’ alongside Deathspell Omega, Clandestine Blaze, and others. Since then Mgła have released a steady stream of EPs, splits and full-lengths, their last release being 2012’s fantastic album ‘With Hearts Towards None’, recognised by many as one of the top black metal albums of that year. Three years on, Mgła are back with another full-length, and in my view this their best release yet, improving on all aspects of their sound.

This album had me hooked from start to finish. The guitarwork is exceptional throughout: impressive in its splendour, terrifying in its maliciousness. Mgła enjoy taking a riff or an idea and pushing it to its limit, seeing how abrasive they can make it. The opening track has a ferocious pace, a whirlwind of blastbeats and eerie, dissonant chords and riffs, but the second track slows things down in an even more brutal way. Opening with a drum-roll and bark, they launch straight into some of the most downright evil and dissonant guitarwork since Misþyrming’s album. “A reward for the perseverant: Unceasing howling of the heart, Bound to walk this path. Nether, again, nether – now and forever.”

In comparison to their previous albums the vocals definitely seem to be much more front-and-centre, M.’s harsh bark adding another element of abrasiveness to their dark arsenal, and his lyrics are one of the aspects of this album that I enjoyed the most. At times the imagery and language used is incredibly compelling. Where some black metal bands sing about Satan and a kind of theological evil, Mgła tend to focus on the everyday horror and hopelessness, and everything about their music is directed towards this goal. Often they reference theological or mythological concepts and tales, but only to bring home a more direct and relevant point about the very real human evil and horror, while exploring themes of madness and the human condition.

The 8-minute-long fifth track, a menacing, rumbling, abrasive and melodic opus, plays on Biblical themes, drawing out the idea that so many of the horrors in the world are entirely down to humans and our own actions, and needed no outside influence by some kind of theistic creature or deity. It is well worth reading through the whole set of lyrics to this album, they really add another layer of depth to their music.

What keeps me coming back to this album is Mgła’s ability to blend abrasiveness and melody, but to do so with the traditional, ‘orthodox’ set of tools. The production is ideal for this style of metal: it sounds raw and gritty, it sounds real and true, while never getting in the way of the music. And there are simply too many fantastic riffs and lead moments throughout this album to mention each one, but the final two tracks in particular with their sprawling length working in their favour. It’s hard to know where to find fault with this album, and if I were really looking to do so I’d suggest that part III isn’t quite as amazing as the rest despite it’s awesome DsO-inspired riffs. But the song is still awesome, and the album as a whole remains a triumph that I think I will be returning to long into the future.