2015 was a hell of a year for Devil-worshiping Black Metalers! Some of the arguably best Metal releases of the year were dedicated to our good old friend, goat-faced and horned. In order to celebrate this dynamic and joyful subculture, Utropia has decided to select two of those releases and compare them back to back in order to give its readers some helpful clues about what the trendy satanist should listen to these days.
Text: Lyonel Perabo
So yes, what do we have deep down? Are these just two average Black metal records or is there something special about them besides Satan? Yes there is, a bit. MGLA is a Polish band which isn’t GRAVELAND or BEHEMOTH and MISÞYRMING is an Icelandic Black Metal band which isn’t SVARTIDAUÐI. That means that we’re talking about at least one moderately underground band that probably neither your best buddy nor your third cousin knows about.
In terms of ancientness, MGLA is a clear winner. These hooded Poles have been a band for more than fifteen years (but have only released music for ten). MISÞYRMING are much younger dudes whose hooded members have been playing in a few other bands, but not nearly as long as their Polish counterparts. The Icelanders’ latest offering, “Söngvar elds og óreiðu” is also their very first. MGLA on the other hand has already released quite a lot of material and “Exercises in Futility” is their third full-length effort, following the critically acclaimed “With Hearts Towards None” from 2012.
What sets those bands apart isn’t simply geographical location and past musical endeavors. Both bands are part of (or rather, are associated to) the “New Wave of Orthodox Black Metal”, also known as NWOBM. This trend (because let’s face it, this is what it is) which, despite not really being called NWOBM anywhere else than on these pages (which is a pity, that acronym works so well), is possibly the biggest and most-publicized faction at play in Black Metal these days. Most of the bands that are generally thought as being part of this ´sub-scene´ such as NIGHTBRINGER, SVARTIDAUÐI or CULT OF FIRE are characterized both by their vocal advocacy of unadulterated anti-human Satanism and Occultism and by a near-constant wearing of hoods. Musically however, these bands do exhibit quite a lot of variation.
This diversity is very much apparent when listening to both MGLA and MISÞYRMING back to back. While both are awesome releases they clearly differ from a musical point of view. To summarize in one sentence: “Söngvar elds og óreiðu” is definitely more Old-School in its approach as well as being both more atmospheric and diversified than its Polish counterpart. “Exercises in Futility” on the other hand, is straightforwardly melodic and possesses a catchy edge that is completely incorporated in all the aspects of its songs.
Now, stopping here would be blatantly criminal and revoltingly over-simplistic. Sure, MGLA master that little something in their guitar harmonies that catches your attention like a classic Heavy Metal tune, but MYSÞYRMING can also be absolutely nerve-wrackingly haunting. Out of nowhere, concealed between a sick blast-beat and some eerie keyboard part, a vicious lead-guitar can very well just pop up out of nowhere and punch you in the (musical) groin, so to speak…MGLA is also not just a band that simply makes decent melodic Black Metal: the pristine layering of the guitars and absolutely insane drum-beating work together to create a strange, almost uplifting atmosphere that is almost religiously alluring.
In terms of quality, it’s nearly impossible to give the upper hand to either one of these releases. Both albums are true works of Dark Art, which exhibit both a strong musical identity as well as essentially flawless musicianship. Rather than pitting them against each other, it would be much more beneficial to see them as complementary. For those enthused by a more orthodox, yet intelligent take on Second-wave Norwegian-ish Black Metal, “Söngvar elds og óreiðu” might be an obvious choice. To those willing to delve deeper into an as of yet more complex entity displaying an at-times ridiculous talent at throwing hooks at the listeners, “Exercises in Futility” will not disappoint. However, regardless of one’s personal preferences it is very much advised to give both of those amazing albums a try. Anyone appreciative of Black Metal as a music genre and an art form will find something to feed on within the swarthy darkness summoned by these hateful devotees.