Moloken – All is Left to See (Temple of Torturous, 23 October 2015 [EU] / 13 November 2015 [NA] / 04 April 2016 [vinyl])
Recently — like within the past few months — I stumbled across this new album by Swedish progressive-post-sludge metal band Moloken (which translates to “dejected”), which came out this past November here in North America. It was their third album (fourth release overall) since forming in 2007, but it was my first introduction to the band. In any case, the material sounded really good, so I added it to my “to do” list, which currently contains hundreds (no exaggeration) of albums I intend to write about eventually. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get caught up with that list, because it feels like stuff keeps getting added to it at a slightly higher rate than it gets crossed off.
But today I’ll get to cross this one off, because I saw an announcement that this week Moloken are embarking on a tour across Europe (including their first-ever performances in France and the UK, plus an appearance at Roadburn) alongside Cult of Luna, who happen to come from the same city, Umeå — in the northern part of the country, situated on the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland, and just slightly below the Arctic Circle. In light of this news, I’ve decided to write about the album All is Left to See to let you folks know you should check it out!
In the press announcement for the joint European tour, Cult of Luna frontman Johannes Persson said, “It is not easy to be in a band that comes from a small town in the north of Sweden. The physical distance forces you to do the 8+ hour drive to Stockholm (a drive we’ve done more times than I can count) before you can do anything. The distance to everything relevant is a disadvantage for a band with the ambition to grow. Moloken is one of these bands that needs to get more recognition. They are hailing from our hometown of Umeå and it feels great to be able to present them to our audience in Europe. So for the love of Odin, don’t miss them.”
Sounds like good advice to me. The full list of scheduled dates (most with both bands, but there are a few extras with just Moloken) will be in the comments section after you’re finished reading here …
All is Left to See, which is the first output from the band in a little over four years, centers around the bleak, dark concept of Mörkrets Kärna (literally, “Dark Core,” although unrelated to the musical genre of the same name), with lyrical content that has been described as “falling down a pit of your darkest being, losing yourself completely, and desperately trying to make sense of it.”
The album consists of eight tracks over the span of nearly half an hour, but three of these are brief (about a minute to a minute and a half long) interludes: “I Can’t Hear You” with faraway, echoey guitar playing (almost in a classical or Spanish style, although on an electric) and what appears to be a bit of faint, barely discernible singing in the background; “Burst” which is considerably faster and more blastbeat-filled than the rest of the album, with an overdriven bass sound and shrieked blackened vocals; and “Wreckage” which consists entirely of very echoey chimes or bells of some sort.
The remainder of the songs, ranging from about three to seven minutes apiece, generally consist of a similar arrangement: a tandem of guitars, one on each side, that occasionally play in unison but often employ harmonic or contrapuntal ideas, sometimes even having very different sounds like in the opening track “Subliminal Hymns” where one is heavily distorted but the other sounds semi-clean. Bookended by these duelling parts we find a bassline in the center, often melodic and rather mobile, weaving through the gaps between the guitars. And sandwiching all of this, sometimes rising above but always also laying the foundation beneath, the drums are hard-hitting, pulsating, throbbing, pounding, but also very fluid much of the time.
It’s my understanding that the majority of this material was recorded live in the studio, so the panned guitar-bass-guitar set-up is probably the same as how the players would physically be arranged onstage. My recommendation would be to use headphones with this album, to really appreciate the interplay between the various parts. That particular instrumentation gets broken up on a few occasions, with the introduction of intriguingly different sounds: “I Dig Deeper,” for example, ends with a series of strange guitar noises similar to whale songs, and the closing track “Beginning of the End” consists of a clean guitar set against a mournful cello, sometimes with a second guitar in unison with the cello while sometimes the second guitar adds an additional counterpoint to the existing parts.
Over (or under) all the rest of this is the vocals — here a harshly rasped monotone, there hardcore shouting (nearly singing), fierce shrieking at this point, and a very hoarse creak at another time. The one unifying factor — and this can be said about the various instruments with their dissonant harmonies and competing rhythms, just as well as it could about the different vocal sounds throughout the album — is an overwhelming sense of despair and despondency, of angst and anguish, of experiencing loss and feeling lost.
For American readers, All is Left to See is available in CD or MP3 format here; in Europe, you can get the CD from Temple of Torturous here, and the vinyl edition — which just came out yesterday! — is available to order directly from the band here.
* * * * * * *