Review: Moloken – Unveilance of Dark Matter

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It’s good, it’s bad, it’s Moloken.

Moloken is a metal band from Sweden that play a weird brand of (probably) sludge (maybe) and have recently released their fourth album. In case I haven’t hedged it enough: I’m only using “sludge” because it’s among their Bandcamp tags. In truth, I’ve no idea what to call this. It’s nothing completely outside the box, but it does end up sounding pretty unique. Maybe not weird enough to satisfy lovers of pure-bred skronk or full-on noise rock, but elements pointing in those directions are plentiful. It’s sort of sitting between the chairs. Which chairs? Sanity and its opposite, I’d say. Let’s have a look.

The first track does a great job of easing the listener into things with its stubbornly marching, repetitive rhythm that subtly descends into more dissonant sounds towards the end. By the time second track “Surcease” comes along, the table is set, and the song can merrily dig into more unpleasant sounds, eschewing melody altogether. The first comparison that came to mind was Great Falls—there’s a similar knack for unpleasantly angular riffs as well as rhythms that seem unable to find any peace and insistently push forward. Yet Moloken is never content to wholly reside in this territory, as “Shadowcastle (Pt 1)” exemplifies. The track is overall slower and calmer, like a manic trying desperately to reel himself in and collect his thoughts. However, as the intensity subsides further in the middle of the song, dissonance slowly creeps back in, and as things ramp up again, the two vocalists take turns screaming their heads off, strongly suggesting that there will be no rest, only different kinds of terror.

After the first of three interlude tracks (all equally unnecessary, really), “Hollow Caress” starts out relatively coherent and even-keeled, but soon devolves into an unsettling mid-tempo stomp in which drums and bass guitar take the lead while the guitar drifts in the background, strumming unmelodious (dis-)chords. From there, the song shifts into the sort of grinding repetitiveness that we heard in the opener, making sure to trample anything resembling pleasantries.

That’s the gist of the record: Moloken creates excellent interplay between abrasive, amelodic sections on one side and more conventional musical elements on the other. And it’s not just that one morphs into the other; more often than not, both seem to exist at the same time, creating the musical equivalent of cognitive dissonance. The title track that closes the record does this wonderfully; while the rhythm is not hard to follow and might even make your head bob, it’s buried under an almost overwhelming clamour of guitarwork that screeches and twangs and generally rejects notions of musicality. It gives me the vibe I so enjoy on Great Falls’ records while mixing in less hostile strains that I can grab on to and which make the overall product stick with me more.

Regrettably, the album is not without its low points. The second and third interlude tracks involuntarily serve the function of framing a notable slump in quality. “Repressed” is a kind of intro to “Lingering Demise,” which is not needed because that song itself offers plenty of respite, being the quietest on the album. Both it and the following track just fail to click with me. The quiet parts come off as meandering and listless, and “Unbearable” starts to grate a bit with its bass line and annoying vocals. A change of pace is absolutely appropriate at this point in the record, but the execution seems lackluster, and having two filler tracks between two filler interludes feels like the epitome of padding.

Looking at the sheer numbers, then, I can’t help but feel that an EP may have been more effective—I could have done without five out of the eleven tracks here. Still, this is the sort of stuff I can get excited about, and I look forward to checking out Moloken’s past and future catalog.

Unveilance of Dark Matter is available in exchange for SEKs over at The Sign Records.

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