Mgla - Exercises in Futility
Northern Heritage
Black Metal
6 songs (42' 12")
Release year: 2015
Northern Heritage
Reviewed by Andy

Though I'd enjoyed Mgla's With Hearts Towards None, I got to Exercises in Futility a little late -- which I now regret, since it's quite possibly the band's solidest and tightest work to-date. This isn't normally something I'd say about a black metal album, but despite all the blastbeats and dissonant chords, the overall sensation is one of smoothness, effortlessly cutting into the listener's soul like a razor blade.

Not that bandmembers Darkside and Mikolaj Zentara are likely to admit the existence of souls, or even a point to life -- the lyrics of Exercises in Futility are so despairing and relentlessly nihilistic that one almost feels bad for the writers. Why can't they perk up a bit, maybe sing a few hearty paeans to Satan? To back the cheerless lyrics we get a boiling tempest of guitars with simple yet effective riffs, on top of some of the best drumming I've heard this year -- the way Darkside handles the cymbals, in particular, is a pleasure to hear. And the quiet confidence of the songwriting is striking, too -- the first two tracks take their time and pick up speed, each riff getting a full workout until the next one spells it off. Zentara's ringing lead guitar accents jangle broodingly over the blasting rhythms and rattling tremolos with cold precision, but his more complex rhythm melodies on III (like all their other albums, none of the tracks have titles beyond a number) are what draws the listener in, like Satyricon riffs but without as much of the scratchiness.

I liked Zentara's vocal delivery here too, a little better than on With Hearts Towards None. Part of it may just be the nice production job they did here, but his throaty rasp is extremely listenable on this album, blending well with the guitar sound and giving some energy to animate the depressive lyrics. By the beginning of VI he's sunk down to a subvocal whisper, but with a renewed fury the instruments pick up and he grates out his sharp declarations of despair mingled with understanding. The musical phrasing here, though more energetic, still has the mature restraint that can be observed on the rest of the album -- with a drummer who's using his cymbals like toms on this track's chorus, they don't need to gild the lily here.

A cold slab of black metal like this stands out as one of the top albums of this past year. Like a few other bands of this genre (Inquisition comes to mind), Mgla has evolved a sound all of its own that it perfectly nails, while still proudly displaying its bleak heritage on Exercises in Futility in every grim moment.

Killing Songs :
All of them
Andy quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Mgla that we have reviewed:
Mgla - With Hearts Towards None reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Mgla - Groza reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
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