Album Review: MØL — “Diorama”

Blackgaze is a lot like pizza, at least to me, anyway: even when it’s not memorable, the components put together are still enjoyable.  That being said, blackgaze bands, like pizza joints, have popped up on almost every corner and become a dominant force in the musical landscape, so much so that it’s very hard to say that any particular band is doing something truly different, unless you’re actually Deafheaven and you almost completely ditch the black metal part of your sound.  MØL bridges the gap towards those forward-thinking blackgaze bands on their sophomore release Diorama by blending influences from across the musical spectrum in ways that straddle the unconventional.

MØL, despite being newcomers on the scene, have managed to make quite a stir with the few releases they have under their belt.  Their debut EP dates back to 2014, and JORD, their proper debut, is only three years old, but still MØL have managed to captivate the critics and stake a claim for their place in a scene that is pretty well saturated with copycats and derivatives.  Especially beloved in their home country of Denmark, JORD put them on the map by showcasing their blend of obvious influences like My Bloody Valentine, Deafheaven, Slowdive and Alcest with crushing death metal and delicate synth passages.  On Diorama, MØL double down on what makes them both the talk of the town and unique amongst their peers.  The Danish fivesome spin together the classic combination of swirling, melodic guitars, wretched vocals and delicate ambience, but sprinkle in much of the heavier end of the spectrum than you might at first think.  Crushing, filthy riffs and crashing drums break up the blur of blast beats and tremolo guitars, and layered death growls slice through the mix and serve to emphasize the tension inherent in the sudden start/stop dynamics of switching between fast and dreamlike to brooding and all too real.

Speaking of the mix, the first bit of praise for Diorama needs to be the mix of the album, especially the vocals.  A huge standout feature of Diorama is that the vocals are not buried in the mix, which is much appreciated.  For me, it works in some cases, but more often than not I’d rather be able to hear them, even if I can’t understand them, and on Diorama, the variety of vocal delivery is certainly highlighted.  The guitars, as well, are given proper treatment, and it is easy to see why from the soaring leads to the melancholic melodies MØL have been given the praise they have.  They write damn good hooks, and Diorama is chock full of them.  Opening track “Frakture” lays on the Deafheaven worship thick, but effortlessly blends melodicism and dissonance to great effect.  “Tvesind” utilizes Adore-era Numenorean style riffs and soaring, impressive lead work to great effect, but for my money, it doesn’t get any better or more unique than “Vestige.”  Blending straight punk rock with black metal fury and insanely catchy melodies, it perfectly encapsulates what makes this band special and worth more than a cursory listen.

MØL have worked very hard in the short amount of time that they’ve been around, and it’s clear from one listen to Diorama that they’ve earned the praise they’ve gotten.  More than just a one-and-done good time, Diorama nourishes the soul in the way that empty calories can’t, despite how cheesy and wonderful they might be.  It seems I’ve lost the plot a little bit here, so I guess I’m just going to leave with an unfiltered opinion: Diorama is a very good album that doesn’t quite break the blackgaze mold but certainly sprinkles on some pleasant influences you might not expect.

– Ian

Diorama is available now on Nuclear Blast.  For more information on MØL, visit their Facebook page.

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