EXERCISES IN FUTILITY by Mgła
Genre: Black Metal
Favorite Tracks: “Exercises in Futility IV”, “Exercises in Futility V”
As the new wave of American black metal has made its impact through the 2010s, the countries that fine-tuned the genre in the 90s are looking to gain some traction in this day and age. The big players have wisely sought to expand black metal’s horizons in a plethora of interesting ways. Throughout the European continent, bands like Alcest and Lantlos are flirting with the post-rock elements brought by blackgaze, and even new acts such as Devouring Star and Abominor are putting their skills to the test, with death metal and technical death metal influences lending their hand to a “progressive” black metal movement. Oppressive moods brought about by creepy noise bits have also become commonplace, making this sphere of metal all the more interesting. Unfortunately, Polish band Mgła’s newest release, appropriately entitled EXERCISES IN FUTILITY, has little to offer this evolving black metal scene, proving to be one of the stalest releases in the genre since the last Ghost Bath album.
To put it bluntly, the bulk of EXERCISES IN FUTILITY is just plain boring. Though it does boast more than a few brutal cyclones of intense guitars and percussion, the tone of the album rarely changes. Almost all of the riffs and chord progressions on the album are subject to constant repetition and greatly outlast their welcome. Not only does the band not do anything new for black metal, but one would be hard pressed to say that this album does anything exciting for metal or extreme music in general. Many cover this gripe by claiming that this is intended to fashion a sound that hearkens back to black metal of old, but taking a closer look at Mgła’s fellow Polish contemporaries, bands such as Infernal War and Blaze of Perdition, this begins to make much less sense. This one-trick pony style is a clear indication of undisciplined guitar playing and a lack of creativity that totally flies in the face of black metal’s sonically chaotic traditions.
Even during the few times Mgła’s instrumentation takes a risk, such as on the fifth track “V”, it’s incredibly short lived, carried by the even more rare inclusion of interesting drums. Early on, these methods desensitize listeners to such a degree that it leaves much of the album stagnant. It’s more-or-less like eating dessert every day for dinner, or a horror film only comprised of a long, continuous jump scare. Children and the simple-minded would at first appreciate it thanks to the sheer energy it gives, but it soon becomes sickening.
The biggest strength EXERCISE IN FUTILITY possesses is its vocals. The delivery focuses more on a growl than the screaming black metal fans are accustomed to. Much of the words remain discernible, and although this is often a futile attempt at flaunting wannabe poetry for many a metal vocalist (*cough* Boss-de-Nage), the lyrical content is engaging enough to keep it afloat. While conceptualizations of deep nihilism are not at all new territory for black metal, the opening line of “The great truth is that there isn’t one” may strike a profound chord for some.
Overall, the album is an uninspired trek through the very depth of black metal dregs. Most of what is heard here can barely constitute extreme music. Though the finesse and presence of exciting metal is there, it barely lasts.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend