USBM feels like it’s in a good place musically right now. Depending on what your appetite is, you can trawl pretty much any region of the United States and find a unique scene where geography, community, and culture roll into a diverse assortment of styles. Moving just a bit south from the current scene in the Northeast, Mo’ynoq have constructed a blistering, raw collage of influences on their full length debut Dreaming in a Dead Language.
Raleigh, North Carolina probably isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think of USBM, but the state has always had a pretty vibrant metal scene (hell, Corrosion of Conformity hail from there), and Mo’ynoq’s 2016 demo Anguish and Atonement more than delivers on the promise of vicious, head-first metal. Fidelity-wise it echoes a raw, lo-fi aesthetic of early 90s black metal but on “Obsidian March” you can already discern a layer of atmosphere and progressiveness in the shifts in time with the drums against slower, languishing tremolo melodies. This sense of forward thinking continues on 2017’s Bardo, with the two tracks that comprise the release – “Fell Hair” and “Celestial Rebirth” – demonstrating a growth and confidence in what Mo’ynoq want to achieve.
You would think that Dreaming in a Dead Language would be an extension of the work on Bardo, but instead opener “Empyreal Decay” feels more ferocious, more cavernous even as it displays a similar sense of progressive exploration. I’ve seen comparisons to bands like Immortal and Wolves in the Throne Room, but the more I listen the more I feel like Mo’ynoq share a kinship with more modern bands like Anicon and Pale Chalice, distinctly modern bands embracing a sense of atmosphere and dynamics even as they lean into the legacy of earlier bands.
The first thing that hits you though is the ferocity and near-bludgeoning noise. “The Collector” has no intention of letting up with its assault and hellish vocal rasping, but buried in the mix you can hear the way the guitar lines are always moving, emphasizing a particular note in a frantic chord one minute, then moving sideways into a dissonant arpeggio before launching into a brief but searing solo. Another killer solo opens “These Once Tranquil Grounds” before giving way to blast beats and more traditional black metal mayhem.
The decaying segue of “Doomed to Endure” aside, the rest of Dreaming in a Dead Language follows a similar cadence, although in the quiet, tentative opening of “Carved in Stone” and the almost uplifting ending to closer “Buried By Regret” show a little more experimentation in the form, and allow Mo’ynoq to close the album even stronger than they began it.
I’d say that’s a hell of a way to open 2019.