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Tuesday 2 November 2021

Reviews: MØL, Mastodon, Omnium Gatherum, Mother Iron Horse (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

MØL - Diorama (Nuclear Blast) 

Danish Blackgaze masters MØL felt that Jord, their debut full length was what they had been striving for with their previous EP's. With that nadir reached, and their sound established they have now set about refining that signature on their follow up full length, experimenting and exploring what they can achieve within that blackgaze template. Their first album for Nuclear Blast records Diorama was recorded and mixed by Tue Madsen who imbues it with an urgency but also an otherworldly quality as the frantic, psychedelic guitar interplay of Nicolai Busse Bladt and Frederik Lippert gives way to haunting ambient textures. They are one of the key elements to why MØL have been so well received by metal fans. 

While this storm of wild unrestricted aggression rages, the man I call a demonic car salesman Kim Song Sternkopf screams, shouts and howls with assurance, his voice often in serious juxtaposition to the airy melodic guitar playing and even when the distortion and tremolo picking is at full pelt he still feels dangerously unhinged. The two opening songs on this record, the punchy Fraktur and the savage Photophobic pick up where Jord left off, displaying the two distinct sides of MØL, first the more restrained euphoric sound, the second the blackened assault with some steamroller bottom end from Holger Frost (bass) and volatile percussion from Ken Lund Klejs (drums). From here though the style switches and changes seemingly at random, on Serf the chiming leads and plentiful solos added to some anthemic riffage as the vocals continue to assault the senses. 

At just 8 tracks Diorama doesn't need to be any longer as the the tracks contain so much substance that, you feel out of breath as you finish it. Before that there's more musical experimentation as the hardcore punk of Vestige is evened out by jangling clean guitars, while Redacted builds on it's ambient openings for a track where main body sounds possibly jubilant, the swelling spectral aura of the chorus, diving into quieter more restrained verses where there is even something akin to clean vocals, though they are more like whispers before the song almost becomes post metal. Diorama is MØL at the peak of their powers but pushing further still. 

Tvesind switches between blasts of outright explosivity and sludgy drawn out passages the last note ringing out into the closing title track which is an introspective, dynamic, climactic piece that features clean vocals from Kim and a female guest singer, and to these ears feels like Anathema. Diorama is the album that MØL hang their future on, it's the record that will see them become the leading light in the blackgaze, if not the metal scene at large. 9/10

Mastodon - Hushed And Grim (Reprise Records)

A tribute to their Mastodon's former manager Nick John, Hushed And Grim is perhaps the most downbeat, introspective Mastodon album of all. It's also the longest at 86 minutes featuring 15 songs all of which sit in that signature Mastodon style but as I said with bittersweet note throughout. The vocal trio of Troy Sanders, Brent Hinds and Brann Dailor all take their fair share of the singing across this double disc offering and while Dailor and Sanders power the progressive, sludge metal grooves, they also bring jazz elements to Sickle And Peace as the guest keys of João Nogueira open up the weighty More Than I Could Chew. Bill Kelliher's rhythm playing is the bite of the band, twisting and turning at the whim of the song, keeping the tracks on course while Hinds brings flourishes. 

They aren't the only guitar players here though as Marcus King and Kim Thayil both add solos. There are a plethora of guests here, though no Scott Kelly of Neurosis for the first time, however they can't help this album feel like anything but a slog. Yep after seven previous offerings, Mastodon's eighth is a bit too long winded to really enjoy, tracks such as Teardrinker are decent enough and there is some massive heavy passages throughout but the album feels just a little too much like an album written mainly to satisfy the band than the audience. I realise that this is my opinion and many will love the record, also I feel that the band needed to record it to pay tribute but Hushed And Grim did very little for me even after numerous listens. A shame really but you can't win them all. 5/10 

Omnium Gatherum – Origin (Century Media Records)

25 years into the existence of the band and Omnium Gatherum (close friends get to call them OG) continue to strive forward with what can be considered melodic death metal. As the years have passed, the melody has increased exponentially, making the 8 songs on this eighth album very pop focussed, adding lots of power metal guitar playing from band founder Markus Vanhala and plenty of keyboards from Aapo Koivisto ala fellow Finns Children Of Bodom but Omnimum Gatherum have always a bit more extra than many of their contemporaries, citing their genre as AORDM, adult orientated death metal, they have always deftly blended the crushing heaviness of death metal with the AOR-melodies of that 80’s Miami sound. 

It sounds weird if you’ve never heard the band but once you listen to Origin you’ll understand. The album itself was hindered not just by the pandemic but half the band being replaced after their 2018 release, however this injection of fresh blood, Mikko Kivistö (bass) and Atte Pesonen (drums) along with Vanhala playing some of his most impressive lead guitar in the bands career. It makes for a scintillating listen. Vanhala also decided to contribute most of the clean vocals to tracks such as Paragon, giving the big AOR choruses more authenticity while Jukka Pelkonen’s growl doesn’t ever feel out of place, working well on the thrashy Reckoning especially. Origin is the culmination of Omnium Gatherum's 25 year career, perfectly encapsulating what they do. Essentially in a genre of one, Omnium Gatherum bring something truly unique. 8/10   

Mother Iron Horse – Under The Blood Moon (Ripple Music)

Mother Iron Horse is the second band signed to Ripple Music under the Blasko curated series. The first was Holy Death Trio whose album Introducing scored high from me so the promise of “fun and Satan-worshipping debauchery” from Salem, Massachusetts was enough for me to get excited. Under The Blood Moon is the band’s second album following on from their debut releases in 2019, after that cam numerous gigs where they cranked out the riffs anyone who will listen, unfortunately due to the pandemic the party was halted so they decided to knuckle down and write yet more Satanic Stoner rock n roll. Unlike black metal, Mother Iron Horse embrace the dark side with their tongue firmly in their cheek, it’s all meant for escapism, they are more likely to light up a spliff and drink a beer than light a black candle and drink blood. 

Their use of the occult is more in the sense of storytelling, especially on this conceptually minded release which tells of alternate universe where the Witches Of Salem are free to roam (The Witches). Musically Mother Iron Horse remind me of Orange Goblin or Red Fang on Old Man Satan especially but the shouted vocals bring to mind UK bands such as Pist or Desert Storm. It was this track, Old Man Satan, that brought them to the attention of Blasko, he then signed the band and co-produced this album as it was being recorded at God City studio of groove driven Stoner doom. Under The Blood Moon, draws its narrative arc from the occult but it’s musical force is from the glory days of stoner riffing with the COC-eque title track or the desert rock influence on Samhain Dawn, which also feels little like High On Fire. Heavy riffs, heavier vocals and a clear focus on their approach, Mother Iron Horse are another home run for Blasko and Ripple Music. 8/10

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