Mgła swept up listeners with their sprawling and utterly bleak black metal across their previous two full-lengths With Hearts Towards None and Exercises in Futility. While the group had quite a few other releases to their discography by this point, it was these two records that broke through and put them as a name regularly referenced when talking about the genre. Mgła has always spaced out their releases rather than churning them out year after year, and that’s once again the case with their latest effort Age of Excuse. Once again following a similar approach to songwriting compared to its predecessor, this feels like a refinement rather than a reinvention but the band once again has the sheer power and mesmerizing instrumentation to keep you coming back for more.
Age of Excuse utilizes the same method of attack that Mgła has become known for, as whether they’re moving forward at a slower, methodical tempo or blasting away at a much brisker pace the layers build to form a bleak and abrasive sound that fully washes over you. This is accomplished through guitar work that emphasizes repetition and melodies that soar at just the right moments, and when these songs reach their peaks they’re just as powerful and hypnotic as any of the band’s past achievements. “Age of Excuse III” is worth noting in particular, as its melodies build to a triumphant and commanding presence that will make you want to crank the volume up as high as it will go with each appearance. Darkside’s drumming once again balances sheer force and technicality, with some of the cymbal work and fills hinting at the more technical approach he’s showcased on Kriegsmaschine’s recent albums. But even with this strong base at work, there are some lulls to Age of Excuse where the instrumentation doesn’t quite hook in the same way that both With Hearts Towards None and Exercises in Futility did. That’s not to say there are any bad songs, but the overall impact feels centered on particular sections rather than on across the material as a whole.
Mgła’s vocal approach has always proved to be quite appealing, as they’ve delivered raspy screams that hovered over the recordings and felt like they were hammering nails into your body with every word. Age of Excuse continues to make perfect use of this, with the verses being spaced out in a way that allows each one to come through with as much power as possible. For the most part the performance sticks with this style, but the fifth track shakes things up a bit with some echoed spoken words that have a haunting quality to them before M. comes back in with his abrasive screams.
While the group has hardly stood still, there are noticeable similarities between this album and its immediate predecessor that makes it feel like more of an incremental adjustment rather than a true leap. The high points prove to be just as engaging as before and there’s still plenty to the writing to draw you in, but I have a feeling that in the years to come I’ll be reaching for the previous two albums a bit more often than this one. Age of Excuse is available from No Solaceand Northern Heritage Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to share it with others to help us grow. You can also like and follow us on the social media of your choice with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and support us on Patreon.