It’s not often that we reach out to a band and ask for permission to premiere a song, but that’s how this premiere came about. I had the opportunity to listen to the new EP, Bardo, by Mo’ynoq from Raleigh, North Carolina, which is scheduled for release on February 7, and I was tremendously impressed. I was anxious to write a review of Bardo, but we always like to include streams of music with our reviews to give visitors a more immediate sense of the sounds than mere words can convey — and in this case, neither of the tracks from Bardo had become publicly available for listening. So I contacted the band, and here we are.
Bardo includes two songs — “Fell Heir” (which you’re about to hear) and “Celestial Rebirth” — and it’s the band’s second release after their debut EP Anguish and Atonement last June. The new EP’s themes are centered on ideas of intermediate states, as a transition between forms, and the dynamism of the music vibrantly captures an urgent sense of change, though not necessarily for the better.
It’s always risky to employ genre terms for a band’s music that they may or may not agree with. Mo’ynoq are a black metal band, that much is inarguable, but their music reflects so many changes of mood and pace and incorporates so much instrumental exuberance and intricacy that you might be tempted to classify Bardo as progressive black metal, atmospheric black metal, post-black-metal, or all of the above. But whatever shorthand you might choose to use, the music is electrifying and emotionally powerful.
The slow reverberating interplay of guitars and bass carries a haunting, downcast melody at the start of “Fell Heir“, with the notes ringing like chimes in a chilling breeze. With a protracted, wrenching howl, the music then surges in intensity, soon vaulting into a blast-driven gallop. The guitars begin to seethe, becoming increasingly deranged as the rhythm section accelerates even more.
More changes lie ahead, though the vocals remain absolutely scorching throughout, and the forlorn cast of the melody becomes even deeper and darker. The fluid solo in the song is somehow both sparkling and in keeping with the song’s bleak atmosphere. Even when the music catches fire, a sense of desolation remains, at least to these ears.
While “Fell Heir” begins with a slow and almost spectral introduction, “Celestial Rebirth” assaults the senses immediately with huge, tumbling drum beats, a grinding bass line, and flickering, unsettling guitar discordance. A dark and depressive atmosphere seeps in, even as the rhythms and tempos move through a multitude of changes and the guitars needle and vibrate frenetically, swarming and veering.
There’s a dissonant and unnerving quality in these sounds, but the music is nonetheless galvanizing. Even as the vocals are unnerving in their tortured intensity, the cresting waves of melody are alluring. As you approach the end of the song, the band segue into bounding rock beats and raking riffs, and there’s an incandescent solo that turns into a real fret-burner.
My first impressions of this EP have become lasting impressions: Bardo is a very impressive accomplishment and a sign that Mo’ynoq is an abundantly talented newcomer in the realms of American black metal that should be followed closely. More please, and soon!
Bardo was tracked and engineered by Kris Hilbert at Legitimate Business in Greensboro, NC (the drums were recorded live), and it was mastered by Dan Randall at Mammoth Sound in Durham, NC. The distinctive cover art was created by Denis Forkas (Behemoth, Grave Miasma, Gevurah, etc.).
As mentioned at the outset, Bardo will be released on February 7, initially as a digital download (via Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon Music, and Google Play) and on cassette tape, but with a 7″ vinyl release planned for the summer of this year.
To catch Mo’ynoq on stage, check out their current schedule of upcoming shows (there’s also a two-week summer tour in the works):
February 17th – Raleigh NC with Immortal Bird, Withered
March 10th – Philadelphia PA with Necrosythe, Basilisk, Destruct Device
March 11th – Boston MA with Din, Legions Descend
March 12th – Providence RI with Legions Descend, Bog of the Infidel, Angel Morgue
April 10th – Raleigh NC with Negura Bunget