Møl – ‘Jord’

By James Lee

For a hot minute back in 2013, it really looked like ‘blackgaze’ was about to take over the entire world.

Though the mixture of dreamy, ethereal shoegaze and harsh, uncompromising black metal doesn’t sound like the kind of music the mainstream rock world would ever embrace, a little band from San Francisco you might have heard of named Deafheaven released a record – again, you might have heard of it – called ‘Sunbather’, which somehow ended up being the most talked about metal release of the year.

Not only did it make tidal waves in the underground scene, but also wound up being celebrated across mainstream media, its iconic baby-pink artwork even being used in a worldwide iPhone ad campaign. Though not necessarily the first band to embrace this particular sonic fusion *cough* Alcest *cough*, Deafheaven pulled it kicking and screaming out of the shadows. And fairly quickly a whole slew of bands emerged with them, that at least loosely followed the same aesthetic, from Ghost Bath to So Hideous. Even established acts like Oathbreaker pushed their sound away from their hardcore roots into a more expansive, blackened realm.

Despite this sudden burst of popularity, however, it felt like just as soon as blackgaze had ‘arrived’, other sub-genres eclipsed it in the public eye, and the media moved on. Rather than kill the burgeoning scene, though, this allowed bands to flourish away from the prying eyes and elevated pressure that comes with that level of exposure, free from accusations of bandwagon-jumping.

So is the case with Møl, a quintet from Denmark who, since 2014, have quietly been piecing together a discography of gorgeous, heart-stopping music with the help of the UK’s finest purveyors of underground metal, Holy Roar.

Their first two EPs, ‘Møl’ and ‘II’, are stunning works in their own right, but it is the band’s debut album ‘Jord’ that will surely send them into the upper stratosphere, and once more shine a blinding light on their entire sub-genre.

Opening with delicate brace of delayed guitars, first song ‘Storm’ explodes into, well, a storm of skyscraping riffs and drums, immediately setting the bar excruciatingly high for what’s in store for the next 40 or so minutes. Vocalist Kim Song’s shrill howls create a devastating and fitting counterpoint to the lush orchestration concocted by the rest of the band, fusing into a cascade of beauty and horror that both pulls at the heart strings and threatens to snap them at any moment.

‘Penumbra’ throws blast beats into the mix for the first (but certainly not last) time on the album to exhilarating effect, before slowing to a crawl in its midsection, the rampaging attack replaced with a swooning post-rock vibe that’s reminiscent more of Texan heroes Explosions In The Sky than any metal band you could care to mention. Lead single ‘Bruma’ opens again with a delicate and melancholic passage that wrong-foots the listener just enough that when the barrage of heaviness hits proper, it’s impossible not to be bowled over.

Møl’s use of dynamics is faultless throughout ‘Jord’, their innate sense of when a lightness of touch needs to give way to pure power and fury almost unmatched in their genre. They also manage to avoid sticking to a single, easy template – ‘Vakuum’, for example, launches straight into one of the biggest and most anthemic walls of riffing on the record, eschewing the need to build up before going full-tilt.

‘Lambda’ follows by offering a completely instrumental and entirely melodic track, showing the band are more than capable of fully embracing the ‘gaze’ aspect of their sound. Then ‘Ligament’ pulls another handbrake turn, opening with one of the most outright brutal assaults found anywhere on ‘Jord’, before switching gears itself and offering up a shimmering and glorious middle section, introducing for the first time melodic vocals that are as haunting and beautiful as anything Alcest ever committed to tape.

One of the ways ‘Jord’ separates itself from many of its peers is that the songs are on the whole much shorter and more concisely constructed. Where Deafheaven seem unable (or unwilling) to write a song under 8 or 9 minutes in length, Møl are not only able but actively thrive in crafting pieces that have just as effective an ebb and flow in half that time. Though the length of tracks shouldn’t necessarily equate to quality, it is absolutely to Møl’s advantage that they’re able to have just as visceral an impact without taking forever doing so.

It means ‘Jord’ never has even a moment to drag or become boring. From the first breathless seconds to the last, it’s a vital and engaging experience. Once again, Holy Roar have delved into the far reaches of the heavy music community and come up with absolute gold. ‘Jord’ is a tirelessly sumptuous album, evoking and perhaps exceeding the label’s strongest works – not only in Møl’s loose sub-genre – but in the constituent wider genres from which only the finest components have been cherry picked.

JAMES LEE

Three more album reviews for you

River Becomes Ocean - 'A Motion Paralysed'

Reel Big Fish - 'Life Sucks... Let's Dance!'

Palisades - 'Erase The Pain'