The fact that Poland’s Mgla still go onto a live stage and perform in shrouded darkness (I.e. behind the veil of a daunting mask) is simply testament to the style of music the band have been playing since their inception 15 years ago. The sense of utter despair one gets from listening to albums like “With Hearts Towards None” is largely reflected in a live setting, cleverly so because at the end of the day, Mgla simply want you to feel as bitter towards life as they do. This isn’t to say that the band are necessarily one-dimensional, because they really aren’t-and latest album “Exercises in Futility” surely proves that.
In the studio, Mgla are still a two-man band (so a duo rather than a ‘band’ in the traditional aspect). However, in no way should this sway your pre-conceived opinion of the band’s ambitious musical scope. The performance in “Exercises in Futility” is a direct representation of this point. Those who have listened to the band’s previous material will likely be accustomed to this, but each song on “Exercises in Futility” is simply labelled I-VI, so you get the sense that this should be treated as a fully-fledged album, not a mere collection of meandering tracks. The album’s central riff work gives light to the fact that where there is hope there is also despair in Mgla’s musicianship, and the opening notes of ‘I’ certainly prove this. However, throughout the album’s 42 minute run-time, you get the sense that really these songs are ethereal, and that the despair is almost buried within the circular guitar work until ambiance begins to take over. The vocal delivery is bitter enough to maintain the overall grim precision of the instrumentation, and the pace changes are as ‘inviting’ as they are interesting. Above all however, the musicianship here is sustainable. Whilst none of the songs really change their proposed direction from the start, the adaptability to an ever-burgeoning surrounding atmosphere is key to making sure the musical flourishes here are as prominent as ever.
There is a bland side of this album however, and even at a relatively short 42-minute run-time, you get the sense that perhaps Mgla sometimes need a little more creativity to bring forth their seemingly vast array of conceptual ideas. In all honesty, this affects the album’s shortest songs, ‘III’ and ‘IV’, but 10 minutes’ worth of mediocrity is enough to weigh down the quality of the surrounding songs so that the listener simply doesn’t get the full experience. Sure, “Exercises in Futility” is one of those albums to warrant further listens for more in-depth consideration, but those who are not prepared for an overall fluent, almost progressive piece of black metal will be disappointed virtually from the get-go.
Nonetheless, “Exercises in Futility” stands out as being a catalyst for perhaps more promising things to come for Mgla. The band have been together for 15 years, that is true, but the mere fact that they have only been performing live since 2012 simply goes to show that Mgla are still a relatively new group in the realms of black metal. An album like “Exercises in Futility” should certainly propel them to a bigger and brighter future however.
Released: September 4th, 2015