Album review: MØL – Diorama

Danish blackgaze force MØL go deeper into the black on their second album, Diorama.

Album review: MØL – Diorama
James MacKinnon

MØL’s debut album, JORD, arrived in 2018 with such disarming force that it threatened to depose Deafheaven and Alcest as metal’s big dreamers. Although the Aarhus quintet had two EPs under their belt, JORD’s interior landscapes seemed immaculate, spectral guitars and savage metal chops gripped by the fleeting nature of our existence. Now backed by heavyweight label Nuclear Blast, expectation rides high on their second album. What we find is a band changed.

On the surface, Diorama is more brutal than its predecessor. Glacial shoegazing is violently cast aside on Serf as MØL mine a seam of blackest metal. Yet peer into the darkness and you will find light poking through the blastbeats. Tvesind’s waspish guitar drills shift into major key anthemics, while Photophobic’s icy onslaught clears with ethereal falsetto vocals. In fact, on Vestige it’s hard to determine which element is more surprising: the spiky energy that could pass for Biffy Clyro, or that beneath his feral howls, Kim Song Sternkopf has concealed a tender, clean singing voice.

Not all endeavours are successful. The overblown theatricality of Redacted escapes MØL as Kim’s delivery approaches Brian Blessed levels of absurdity. Yet this audaciousness is also what makes album closer Diorama such a spectacle. Gauzy sheets of guitar intwine with vocals from Katherine Shepherd of fellow northern spirits Sylvaine, the band sounding like prog luminaries Anathema as the song gently grows in intensity. Yet just as you think Diorama has reached critical mass, it blooms. A triumphant melody coruscates through the feedback and drummer Ken Klej’s cymbals chime as if he had tapped Saturn’s rings with his drumsticks.

Diorama doesn’t dazzle as immediately as JORD and is perhaps better for it. There is much to enthral here from a band who are evolving, pushing themselves and their sound further – with much to discover still.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Alcest, Svalbard, Sylvaine

Diorama is out now via Nuclear Blast

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