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Another Footnote on a Postcard from Nowhere - 94%

TheStormIRide, September 11th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Northern Heritage Records

Poland’s strongest orthodox black metal export, Mgła, return with their third full length album of nihilistic and misanthropic hymns, Exercises in Futility. According to press releases, this album aims to be the band’s most cohesive and natural album to date. After gaining a relatively large following with 2013′s With Hearts Towards None, which has already been declared by many critics to be a modern day classic, Mgła had very large shoes to fill with their follow up.

Exercises in Futility brings exactly what we’ve come to expect from the band, and those who have followed the band in the past should find no surprises within the album. That being said, it’s an exceptional album that may even surpass Mgła’s past efforts. The band brings the same formula of orthodox black metal riffing and brilliant percussion (that incredible cymbal rolling style placed throughout just needs to be heard), yet the overall presentation is anything but formulaic. Fast paced trem riffing with tons of cyclical rhythms and melodic accoutrements surge forth while, offering a chaotic yet inviting background for the acerbic, barked growls to weave their narrations of fruitless efforts.

Varying tempos are at play, offering an expansive approach and allowing the six tracks to unfold like the chapters from a story rather than as individual offerings. Exercises in Futility is one of those albums that begs to be listened to from start to finish, as the intricate melodies and dissonant riffing play off each other, complimenting each opposite. The band may claim to believe that nothing in life matters, the instrumentation belies that belief as there is an outpouring of emotion placed into every passage, riff and note; encapsulating tragedy and triumph in one fell swoop.

While many black metal acts rely on ridiculous lyrical content that lacks any substance, aside from the general shock value, Mgła’s lyrics are just as potent and provoking as their music. Exercises in Futility begins with the simple statement, “The great truth is there isn’t one; And it only gets worse since that conclusion.” The album’s concept is driven by the uselessness and futility of everything we know and the lyrics serve as harrowing poetics grounded in this nihilistic outlook. Despite the obvious effort put into the music by the band, the lyrics proclaim that it all has just been, “Another chapter in the handbook for exercises in futility.”

Mgła proves that they’re in a league of their own at this point. Their grasp of songwriting is immense, so much so that they manage to level the playing field by simply playing black metal as it was intended to be played. There are no frills, bells or whistles during Exercises in Futility, just a band with a phenomenal understanding of how to create dynamic black metal. Gripping in scope, Mgła have managed to top their previous albums with aplomb and leave the world wondering why nihilism never sounded so good.

As if all this was something more
Than another footnote on a postcard from nowhere
Another chapter in the handbook for exercises in futility

Written for The Metal Observer.