In postmodern music domain, let alone rock or metal, the creative momentum undoubtedly belongs to genres that stem from a variety of influences and combine them in a fresh and unexpected manner. While some post styles in loud music are slowly becoming more or less conventional and rudimentary, there are numerous acts constructively pushing the metal sound forward. Some of them happen to have a relatively unorthodox ingredient – shoegaze – in their compositional design, though it is not the genre per se that necessarily sets the right course for development; it is all about the inventive and sufficiently credible implementation of its core elements.
Recently, I had the pleasure of familiarizing with møl, a young 5-member band from Aarhus. The band’s already existing releases, powerful live performances, the first-hand experience of some tunes from their upcoming album as well as the hardworking mindset that shined through their statements during our talk left me with a hopeful feeling towards møl‘s future role in the post metal (in the broad sense) evolution. Let me give my best effort to explain why.
Spinning møl‘s self-titled EP (2014) and II (2015) for too many times, I got curious what kind of human factor is involved in the making of this contrast-driven, yet free-flowing sound. The band members agreed to meet me in Godsbanen, the usual it-spot for the creatives in Aarhus. The area on that early spring afternoon was almost sundrowned, yet it was impossible not to notice a group of young men, dressed mostly in black. Appropriately to the atmosphere, we sat down on the rooftop to discuss what møl is about and what they have been up to lately.
Given the hype surrounding some of the recent work of not-really-black-metal outfits, such as Oathbreaker or An Autumn for Crippled Children, one can come to the conclusion that the future outlook of black metal is… not really metal. The origins of this tendency might be traced back to the mid-2000s when bands such as Alcest, Amesoeurs, Lantlôs (European tradition) and Deafheaven (American tradition) started evolving beyond the conventional black metal sound and ideology while attracting a new kind of audience to the formerly puristic genre. Consequently, blast beats and high-pitched screamed vocals ceased to be considered as merely a part of black metal sound. The pairing of the shoegaze and the black, also known as blackgaze, has proven to be highly versatile as it comes to incorporating components from other traditions, such as post-rock, atmospheric metal, post-hardcore or progressive rock/metal, to name a few.
Surrounded by this sort of cultural atmosphere, Nicolai Hansen and Ken Klejs, the founding members of a former shoegaze project Antennas to Nowhere, opted for a heavier creative course back in 2012. This can be accounted as the starting point of their shoegaze metal project møl. In a couple of years, the band moved into its full swing by releasing its first EP albums, which were positively received by the media and newly gained fans. Møl also staged quite a few quality live performances around Denmark and Europe, as well as receiving the title of the year’s upcoming band at the High Voltage’s Rock Awards in 2016.
As it came clear during our talk, møl‘s members have the taste, knowledge as well as some experience in a multitude of musical traditions, involving both the technical and speedy genres (hardcore, progressive death metal, traditional black metal) as well as more atmospheric, dynamic and cinematic ones (shoegaze, post rock, contemporary classics, experimental electronics, etc.). According to the musicians, any type of quality music is worth giving a shot – and this sort of welcoming attitude is coming to them in return from a broad variety of listeners from indie, metal or rock backgrounds who find different angles to appreciate in møl‘s production.
On the bright side of black…
As Ken pointed out, møl is definitely not party music, it is something one has to be able to immerse into, either live or with a good stereo or headphones on (he also said we don’t try hard, we do hard, and I promised this as a quote, so here it is).
In their first two EPs møl are all about the dialogue between captivating soundscapes formed out of tremulous guitars, accompanied by uplifting and almost transparent blast beats, bursting out in full intensity and descending into well calculated, yet extremely emotional gloomy guitar chords, building up into intense crescendos, induced with throat-shredding vocals and hectic chord progressions. However, this contrast between the pedal-induced echoey atmosphere and the loud elements does not make the compositions scattered. Instead, they are very much flowy and homogenous, fusing with each other, so that separate songs in the albums, as well as the albums among themselves, form a consistent unit that is ready to be devoured by a listener in one take.
In my opinion, what could work as a perfect introduction to møl‘s style to-date is ‘Sundrowned’, the opening track of their debut EP. It starts out with a slowly descending, bright and dreamy trembling guitar lead along with a sober pack of chords that in mere seconds accelerate towards dramatic, yet somewhat blissful insanity, again dissolving into a free fall towards tranquillity. This pattern which is so common for møl‘s lead guitar might as well be imagined as a metaphorical flight of a moth, vigorously battling surrounding turbulence, smoothly gliding towards the sunlight or dangerously descending towards the pitch-black abyss. Soon after, a restless rhythmic support comes into the picture, taking a role of the main driving force, pushing the sonic narrative forward and fighting dizziness with powerful awakening attacks.
In the two existing records, the high pitched screams by Steffen Nørregaard Rasmussen, the former frontman of the band, carry a similar importance to other instruments, pushing through or getting lost in the walls of sound. As it comes to the lyrics, Steffen, at least according to other band members, was a spontaneous writer. His lyrics appear as effortlessly flowing fragments taken out of a complex metaphorical thought process, forming an atmosphere rather than a narrative, existential and highly interpretive.
…and the dark side of shoegaze
møl are currently in the process of pre-recording their debut album, which is to be released in the late 2017 – early 2018. When asked to which direction they are taking their music with the new release, musicians did not seem to agree on the matter:
Frederik (shoegaze lover, gazing into his shoes): Heavier.
Ken (black metal lover, disagreeing): heavier? I would just say more like at the fine style of our…
The chatter was interrupted by Nicolai, the mastermind behind most of the compositional aspects of the band’s work:
I think, since ‘II’ we came into finding our own sound. It’s going be more of that along with more focus on the rhythmic aspect of music, coupled with the atmospherics and some deep black metal aspects as well.
To clarify the subject, the guys were kind enough to invite me to one of their rehearsals at MONO, creative space for musicians in Åbyhøj, where I got a little preview of some of their new tunes. After immersing into beautiful cascades of sounds, I actually realized that both parties – the ones who claimed the album to be heavier and the ones who disagreed – were right. In other words, everything felt turned up to another level of sharpness: the heavy parts appeared to be more technically sophisticated and energetic whereas the soundscapes – even more heightened and prominent.
Kim Song, who is also a vocalist in a hardcore band Roselyn, proves to be a versatile screamer, capable of adapting to the techniques presupposed by two very different genres. Since in møl’s case, we don’t really talk style purity, it will be interesting to see how prominent his vocal versatility is going to be on the record. Although Kim Song joined møl relatively recently, he appears to be highly involved in the band, weighing in not only with his vocals in live performances but also new lyrics and future artwork (previously it was Ken making the cover art). As a writer, Kim Song describes himself as a perfectionist, and, judging from the fragments of the new lyrics, he agreed to share a lot of philosophical, cultural and spiritual imagery is to be hidden in a complex, yet eloquent metaphorical wording.
From a listener’s perspective, I think it is safe to say that møl could potentially have a beautiful effect on any mind, both an anxious and a peaceful one. This music allows focusing on the present by following a slow change in a continuous, fast-paced blast-beating flow. It can reach into the depths of your sadness, taking over the buzzing thoughts with a precisely polished machinery to some place beautiful, leaving you there, amazed by the transformation you have just become a part of.
Founded/albums: 2012/2 EPs
Members: Nicolai Hansen – guitar; Ken Klejs – drums; Frederik Lippert – guitar; Holger Rumph-Frost – bass; Kim Song Sternkopf – vocal.