Aug 312015

Mgla-Exercises In Futility


Mgła ‘s new album Exercises In Futility crept up upon us, like some stealthy night creature. One day, not long ago, there was simply an announcement out of nowhere that it was finished and would be released, and a song appeared. And then this weekend it pounced for all to see (and hear).

The album was to be streamed publicly for the first time on the day of its release, but then some asshole leaked it, and the band then promptly decided on Saturday to upload all of it for streaming on YouTube. The cause may have been deplorable, but the action was like a gift to those of us who relished their first two albums and have been impatient to hear this one.

I encourage you to read the lyrics before listening to the album. Apart from the insights they provide into the music itself, they are as fascinating, as well-formed, and as harrowing in their poetry as what you will hear.




For those who may be new to Mgła, the band (whose name means “fog” in Polish) was started in 2000 and now consists of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Mikołaj “M.” Żentara (who is also a member of the fantastic Kriegsmaschine) and drummer Maciej “Darkside” Kowalski. Their last album was 2012’s With Hearts Toward None, which was tremendously good — but I do think Exercises In Futility is their crowning achievement (to date).

Those lyrics I think you should read first are almost unbearably bleak and despairing. They speak of “the desert within ourselves”, we who are “disciples of Oedipus… led by stray dogs”, surrounded by failures, misery, filth, discord, and horror. They speak of prophets and rulers constructing edifices of deceit, convincing others to spend a lifetime connecting the dots, when there is no pattern, “as if everything was to be made right one day”:

“As if all this was something more
Than another footnote on a postcard from nowhere
Another chapter in the handbook for exercises in futility”

The songs are numbered like chapters, and otherwise have no names. They are as grim as the lyrics, yet through them beats the steady pulse of intense emotion, and the melodies, though undeniably bleak, are tremendously memorable and often sweepingly beautiful in their own forlorn way.

The songs are very well-crafted. Each is built around a collection of masterful musical motifs, with the often dissonant riffs and rippling/pulsing lead guitar passages driven home through repetition, sometimes calling to mind the more industrialized addictive qualities of Kriegsmaschine. Underneath the shimmering swarms of melody a deep, grinding undercurrent flows, like the immense current of the Styx. But the pneumatic bass lines in this album are one of the keys to its strength — they reach in, grab you by the spine, and bend your body (or at least your neck) to its will.

Full credit must also be given to Kowalski’s drum performance. The variations in drum patterns, from majestic marches, to rocking back-beats, to martial tattoos, to metronomic blasts and cascades of double-bass — all are well-chosen and well-timed, driving these intense and immersive songs with a steady hand, and providing a key ingredient to their compulsive vitality.

If there were any doubt before, Exercise In Futility proves that Żentara is a riff-making genius. Every one of these songs is intense and intensely infectious. It’s heavy metal made for adrenaline junkies, black metal for people who want lashing, slashing chords and hornet swarms of transfixing lead-guitar melody wrapped around a huge rhythmic drive train that could only fail to move the dead.

Żentara’s harsh, ugly howls shriek ugly truths, but this music provides the counterargument: This music is full of life and passion. As dismal and bereft as the melodies often are, these songs will transport you, ultimately unfolding at the end of the album in a panoramic vista. Perhaps it is a netherworld that we were meant to see, but in effect it provides another reason to face the next day: With music like this in it, life is well worth carrying on.


People like me, who lurk in the byways of the interhole for unhealthy amounts of time in search of new extreme music, discovered the surprise debut of this album very quickly on Saturday. By Sunday I saw more than one friend and more than a few esteemed musicians already proclaiming it album-of-the-year material. As most of you know, I’m incapable of making end-of-year lists, much less deciding which is the year’s best album. But I’m certainly capable of opining that it is in select company as one of the best and most consistent albums I’ve heard in 2015, a triumphant work that I expect to return to many times in the coming years.

Carve out 42 minutes from your day and give this your full attention; I think you’ll be very glad you did.


Exercises In Futility will be released on September 4. Pre-orders for the album, on both CD and digitally, can be placed here.



  1. I’m at about the twenty minute mark and loving it, this is fantastic 😀

  2. Better than “With Hearts Toward None?”…damn, now Im really looking forward to spinning this

  3. The review reflects exactly what this album has to offer, including the lyrics and personally I consider it their best, yes, very infectious and probably one of the best of the year!

  4. This certainly could be close to album of the year. Now I need to flog myself for never streaming With Hearts Toward None, even though I’ve had it in front of my face for years.

    • I usually try to flog myself once a week whether I need it or not. Builds character. But flogging or no, I think you’ll really enjoy With Hearts Toward None if you like this new one.

  5. After one listen my preliminary judgment is that this is better than With Hearts Toward None, and I enjoyed that one quite a bit.

    Probably the only band to work “we hold an honorary degree in natural science” into their lyrics.

  6. This is a lot more post-rock than I imagined it would be from the description.

  7. This is a masterpiece hands down, i preordered it on bancamp long ago and i’m so glad i did it.

  8. Great review. God I love the guitar melodies in this album. Still can’t decide if I like this or Hearts more. Can you comment on their other records?

  9. I recently discovered Mgla and am enthralled with their latest release as well as their previous work. It is beautiful, powerful music that moves the spirit. But, they are associated with racist bands, labels, individuals like Clandestine Blaze, Mikko Aspa, which leads me to believe they too are racist/fascist. I am not white, but I dig this music. I see the rise of nationalist/fascist bands infiltrating the metal scene and promoting their ideology. When interviewed, most of these bands continue being crypto stating they don’t have an ideology and hate everyone, blah blah blah. BS. Just state your beliefs so those who do not want to support this type of ideology can make the informed decision to spend their money elsewhere. I see Mgla will be coming to Northern CA. I would like to see them but is my money going to fund racist causes? Does Mgla and their followers reject non whites from coming to their shows?

    Am I the only one who is in this quandary or concerned that this is an issue? I find myself scouring the web for indications if I band I like is racist/fascist. Its a pain in the ass.

    • I saw your same comment on a previous post about Clandestine Blaze, and just responded to it there.

    • I don’t have this issue (also please bear in mind I am a white male, for what that is worth) and my stance is that I try to separate the art from the artist, which sometimes is impossible. Now that I think about it, I tend to either be ignorant of the bands ideological and philosophical views in the first place or I simply ignore their views.

      Case in point, Burzum. I believe Varg to be an objective shithead, but he makes good music. And yes, part of what defines his music IS his worldview, but again, I just ignore that aspect. When it comes to metal (and most music for that matter), I’m more interested in the sound, instrumentation, etc than the lyrics and the meanings behind the lyrics, which, if anything else, would seem to describe a bands ideology. So again, in some cases I ignore it.

      Also, I don’t believe a band like Mgla is racist JUST BECAUSE they happen to associate and play with other bands that may indeed be racist. I suppose you could argue that by playing with these racist bands, Mgla is helping to promote some sort of racist ideology that they themselves don’t subscribe to. And I would have to disagree with that point. Hell, you, me, and a significant chunk of metalheads support these sorts of bands, but do we believe in their political views? I sure as hell don’t, but damn their music sounds good!

      • Hey Will, thanks for the response. Yeah, I think this is where we differ. You being white, you are able to separate a bands beliefs from the actual music itself. I don’t really have that privilege. Sure I can buy into “we hate everyone” narrative and move on. But that is bogus. What makes a band good is its integrity. Like you said, part of what defines their music is their worldview. To separate the two for me would be disingenuous on my part. At this time, I am listening to Mgla for free. Again, its a fucking amazing album. But I am leaning on not giving them my money for purchase of their art or seeing them live. The latter most likely will draw racists.

        A band chooses a label because it usually aligns with their worldview, beliefs etc. They collaborate, not just associate with Clandestine Blaze, Mikko Aspa etc.

        Anyway, thanks again for the dialogue. Cheers!

        • Actually you do have that so-called privilege. I am able to separate. Many nonwhite metal fans have that privilege and exert it and have exerted it. You just don’t care enough about whites to try to see things from their perspective at all. that’s all.

          • I don’t care about whites? What a joke. Why should I care about Clandestine Blaze when they bemoan about the Jews and “street niggers”. Sorry, I have no compassion for whites who see the root of their problems attributed to other races or religions. When they entirely ignore that all of us are under the rule and oppression of a transnational elite class that seeks destruction of sovereignty and people of all colors. That is plain knuckle dragging bullshit.

            • if you can’t see that transnational, globalist, nation crushing, identity erasing, honor hating,
              bottom feeding elite is a mostly JEWISH elite then you need to think some more.

    • I’m so tired of SJW entryism into metal …

      I’m a black male and if i`ve been able to enjoy black metal for almost 20 years you should also be able to do it, if you have any kind of respect for the art **and the people who make it**. Those people happen to be overwhelmingly of the white european type. There are very good reasons for people of white european type to be concerned about issues relating to race, especially given the current climate.

      Antiracism IS anti-white activism and it belongs in hardcore/punk/crust and not in metal, I’d say. I have personally interacted with individuals who have been tagged “problematic” and I have found most of those individuals to be sane, civilized people who were willing to treat me as a sane, civilized human being, my colour notwithstanding.

      I could go on and on but in the end, you might be more comfortable either focusing strictly on the red-anarchist-SJW-transgender-SanFran black metal bands or switching to punk/hardcore/etc.

      • SJW? All I was doing was expressing a viewpoint and concern. You are a white identified black male who enjoys racist metal. Glad to hear that is working out for you. Who made you the arbiter of all things metal? Telling people what they should switch to. Sounds fascist to me. Thanks for revealing yourself.

        • You write like an entitled SJW. When i see a duck walking and talking i call it a duck.
          I’m more familiar with SJWism than the average metalhead so when I spot an SJW I call them out.

          • You write like an entitled fascist. When i see a duck walking and talking i call it a duck.
            I’m more familiar with fascism than the average metalhead so when I spot a fascist I call them out,

            • lol you have no other arguments aside from copying his response and labeling him a fascist just because he disagreed with you? You’re the one who the actual fascist here you fucking dimwit.

    • I also think this as an issue. The association of fascist ideology and black metal is something appellant unfortunately. I always do a background check on a band to see if they are some kind of fascist scum.I Don’t support this shit.

  10. I’m not into Black Metal, so this band was completely unknown to me, but somehow youtube “thought” it was a good suggestion and I gave it a try and boy was it my lucky day. I’ve listened to it some 4 times in the last 2 days and I’m absolutely delighted.

  11. I´ve listen to black metal since 1993 and earlier if you count Bathory. This recording is a pure masterpiece from a band I just have heard the name before. This album is brand new for me, from the last sunday. Brilliant is the word! Kind of a mix of Swedish Dissection, Norwegian Taake and the typical later Burzum(Belus/Fallen) with long songs and atmospheric melancholic sound.

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