'Jord' is the metal album to beat in 2018.
Every so often, you stumble across an album that places a stranglehold around your heart and mind, ensuring that all you can think about when you're not listening to it is to just have another listen through; that itchy infectious feeling of "just one more time..." like the best type of video games can instil. One such record for me that's had this vice-grip effect is 'Jord', the upcoming debut album from Denmark's Møl. Ever since hearing the release back in January from the very kind folks at Holy Roar Records, I haven't stopped thinking about this sensational full-length. I've listened to this album more than anything else in 2018 so far and I can confidently say that my obsession with it won't end anytime soon.
Møl are one of this decade's finest combiners of black metal and shoegaze, with this Aarhus outfit's grim but happy "black gaze" sound now reaching its full potential following their rough-around-the-edges self-titled release and 2015's 'II' EP. They've taken an equally magical and divisive crossover style and executes it in an extremely potent form with 'Jord'. Møl's immense work here features the highly emotive, blackened goodness of genre contemporaries such as Heaven In Her Arms, Oathbreaker, Alcest, Lantlôs circa 2010's superb ‘.neon’, and most certainly Deafheaven amid their 'Sunbather' era - just minus that fucking Ray-Ban endorsement. Further adding to all of this density is how these Danish dudes include loving shoegaze moments a la old Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine records, as well as widescreen post-rock influences you'd see from the esteemed likes of Mogwai and Sigur Rós.
Yet while Møl's sound is as raw, as dynamic, as punishing, as bright, as melodic, as uplifting and as emotional as this genre often gets, they do it as well, if not better than many of the very artists they're clearly referencing and obviously influenced by. This immense record reinvigorates the bloodstream of the blackened-shoegaze scene more than anyone could've ever predicted; creating that same sense of awe and wonder as the first time you spun 'Sunbather' five years ago and thought it was the second coming of musical Christ. Of course, I could just keep comparing this beast of a record to any number of other bands or releases. And while I'd be correct in many of those comparisons because a single record does not ever - ever - exist in a vacuum, this new LP is often so much more than whatever comparisons I or another person could make about it.
Truly, Møl are the kind of powerhouse, one-off band that Pitchfork would cream their proverbial jeans over; the kind that any calibre of black metal nerd could appreciate and love; and the kind that any in-too-deep r/Music/ poster would get hot and heavy under the collar over. For with a grandiose sense of space, triumphant rage, pummelling instrumentation, reverberant textures, polished production, stunning musicianship, expertly paced songs, impressive chord voicings, lavish instrumentals, gorgeous passages, beautiful melodies, and striking black metal vocals, these eight resonating tracks culminate in Møl creating a captivating new benchmark.
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The album's calm before the storm occurs with the phasey, delayed guitar intro of terrific opener 'Storm', which slowly builds from said introduction and then suddenly explodes into a galloping melodic black metal behemoth. Then, right up until the titular closing track concludes its own earth-shaking blackened reign down upon you some 30-minutes later, this record is utterly gripping stuff throughout. 'Jord' is a stunning record, one that's riddled with gut-punching pain and aching melancholia that both elates and depresses, but is also carefully packed full of endearing beauty and underlying hope, both musically and thematically. It's all very ascendant, which is quite fitting, as this album's title means 'earth' in English. It's a musical, emotional and tonal balancing act of light/life (the lush and jubilant shoegaze) and darkness/death (the extreme and searing black metal) that continually ebbs and flows between these two opposing points; a spiritual equilibrium of the physical and the non-physical if you'll indulge me in a rather wankish analysis there, readers.
Beyond my own personal projections, though, Møl are just scarily consistent across their debut full-length.
Staggering lead single 'Penumbra' is an icy five-minute whirlwind of uplifting chords and punishing rhythms with very few respites, all manned by these demonic and intensive screams that punctuate the track damned well. The piercing, dazzling compositional heights of 'Vakuum' never fails to floor me and the massive tremolo sections within it are something more than a word like 'epic' could even begin to describe. The post-rock beauty about our mortality and a timelessness beyond death in the more conventional album standout 'Bruma' moves me every goddamn time I hear it, especially in the way it violently blossoms like a rising, blistering sun over cold mountaintops after its solemn intro. The hazy, dream-like shoegaze quality to the sole instrumental track, the rainy-day tear-jerker of 'Lambda', continually sends chills down my spine. In fact, whenever the quintet opts for a lighter approach, it always flows well and never once feels jarring or forced into the chaotic fray. (Case firmly in my point: the middle eight of the eponymous track or that wondrous bridge in 'Penumbra'). Elsewhere, the album's heavier tracks like 'Virga' and 'Ligament' are these unrelenting black metal gems for the most part but also feature glimmering moments of melodic clarity and strong dynamic sections that keep things both interesting and engaging. And the album's title track just blows my fucking my mind with how amazing it is as it shifts and weaves between all of Møl's various songwriting techniques, emotions and contrasting sounds.
Sure, the buzzing black metal riffs, echoing clean leads, rapid-fire tremolo picking, thundering double kicks, vicious blast beats, hissing high-pitched screams that'd make George Clarke nod in approval, and slight second-wave black metal callbacks are all long-running tropes for blackgaze. Yet Møl accentuates each and every aspect to a dizzying degree. Regarding their frontman's impenetrable screaming, the violently cutting nature and indomitable delivery here drive the rest of music along brilliantly. And while the contrast of heavier vocal timbres with melodic instrumentals definitely isn't anything new, Møl re-energise that norm and then some. Plus, the ghostly clean singing that haunts the blackened halls of 'Ligament' and the title track work wonders but not because they simply juxtapose the other elements present, but because they fit so nicely into the established framework and add another layer to the band's cacophonous sound.
Coupled all of this with the record's giant wall-of-sound production style, Møl has crafted something near-flawless here. To the point that any potential criticism of them being 'generic' or anything of the sort can jump right out the fuckin' window and plummet to its stupid death below.
Though, admittedly, while this is a fucking fantastic record that I genuinely struggle to find fault in, it doesn't push the boat out or break any long-standing mould either. Not that Møl's debut sounding very familiar within their wider genre is a bad thing at all - that's just a mere observation on my part because this band really do have the killer songs to back it all up. It's just that if you've heard the many artists that sit beside Møl on this stylistic shelf, or were just really caught up in that maddening Deafheaven craze that at one point in time your wardrobe consisted only of black button-ups, then your own personal "wow" factor might be lessened somewhat. However, that shouldn't at all sway you from skipping over or hard-passing on 'Jord', for it's an engrossing void of roaring black metal and chilling shoegaze; one of the finest examples of that style you're likely to ever experience no less.
With a near-perfect blackened shoegaze sound exploding from their debut record, Møl don't reinvent the wheel their peers in Deafheaven, Lantlôs, Heaven In Her Arms, Oathbreaker, and Alcest push - not at all. What Møl do, however, is drench said wheel in liquid fucking gold and create what is by far one of this genre's strongest, most-accomplished records in the process. 'Jord' is utterly brilliant, to say the absolute very least. It's a staggering record that is topping my 2018 AOTY list already, and I simply cannot recommend it enough.
'Jord' is out Friday, April 13th via Holy Roar Records. For more on our review scores, please read our About section.