Any black metal fans fortunate enough to be in possession of a ticket for Damnation Festival in Leeds next month is in for a scorched earth treat with the mighty Mayhem on the bill along with such charred comrades as Mork and Gaahls Wyrd. But for many no less thrilling is the presence of Mgla.
The Polish heavyweights have just released their fourth album in Age of Excuse and it is hard to surmise that this searing slab of frost isn’t their best offering yet. And coming on the back of the excellent Exercises in Futility (2015) that has to make you sit up and take notice. And the startling sales figures rubberstamp these early impressions, with the new album selling more CD copies in the first four days than its highly-regarded predecessor did in four years.
So as not to leave us in any doubt as to the title of their new album, the Polish pairing have named each of the six tracks “Age of Excuse” – with the convenient add-on of the relevant Roman numeral, I through to VI.
This is the destructive duo’s fourth album and if Exercises in Futility saw their appeal broaden a decade on from their formation, Age of Excuse should see the Krakow kings break down even more walls.
“Age of Excuse I” is little short of a devastating opener, like an army on the march, relentless all enveloping with its steady rhythmic beat enhanced by some acutely angled riffage that fires lightning strikes across the otherwise dark canvas. “Age of Excuse II” is pacier, announcing itself with a flurry of blastbeats and rhythmic grooves that attempt to ingratiate their way into your soul. By the time the vocals kick in, your body is almost convulsing with the unrestrained fervour generated by Mgla at their mesmeric best. It’s intense, inviting and at times jaw-droppingly brilliant as the Poles paint ever convoluting contours into the charred energetic ether.
“Age of Excuse III” is another exhaustive exercise, in particular the increasingly frenetic build-up towards the summit, waves of nihilism crushing through your speakers. “Age of Excuse IV” is a more challenging listen, less welcoming in shape and symmetry, as Mgla attempt to weave different patterns into a recognisable whole. It takes them a while to tame some strident riff darts but once achieved the impact is again predictably head-crushingly effective as a bruising examination is inflicted on the toms from which they may need some time to recuperate.
Throughout this album the vocals scrape the gutter, inherently evil and downcast but forceful enough to hold their own under the blistering blackened backdrop. “Age of Excuse V” sees the tempo ease, as a much warmer groove leads us in, over which the vocals are spoken words rather than rasped shouts. Once the top of the hammer is reached, the percussive power rushes through, the vocals are ratcheted up and Mgla embark on more barbaric slaying.
The first five songs are between six and seven minutes in duration but, album closer “Age of Excuse VI” is rolled out to nine minutes giving the Polish purveyors of the merciless a little more freedom to thicken their pool of blackened sorcery through the repetitive riff extensions that grind their way into your cranium.