Twelve years into their career, the Swedish genre-benders in Moloken, who hail from the cold climes of Umeå in the north, have completed their fourth album, Unveilance of Dark Matter. It represents the band’s most adventurous, most thrilling, and quite possibly their most unnerving, work yet. Attempting to pin down the style of the music is like trying to pin mercury to a wall. It constantly escapes any such futile efforts, and is all the better for it.
One might try to make a list of the ingredients — which range from modern hardcore to progressive rock, from sludge to post-metal, from doom and death to black metal (and funk) — but a mere list isn’t very elucidating as to how the band have interwoven such disparate traditions. You really have to just hear the album, and to marvel at all the surprising twists and turns, as long as you understand that Moloken are going to constantly challenge you, and to dismember any sense of comfort and self-satisfaction you might be feeling before you begin.
Wiser minds might just stop there and let you experience the full stream of the album we’re presenting on the eve of its release by The Sign Records, but of course no one will ever accuse us of being very wise, and so we’ll yield to the near-irresistible temptation to comment, in detail, on how these 11 ambitious tracks strike us.
Eerie and ominous, and then jolting and seething, “This Love Is A Curse” provides a tension-ratcheting, skull-busting prelude, complete with roaring vocal extremity and demented leads — and it flows seamlessly into the riotous drumming and dissonant riffage of “Surcease“, which funnels sensations of pain and peril, anchored by a prominent bass pulse and threaded with both swirling and angular fretwork that manifest discord and delirium.
The extravagant rhythm-section interplay already revealed in such explosive and constantly morphing fashion on the first two tracks continues in “Shadowcastle (Pt. 1)“, alternating between powerfully head-moving sequences, eruptions of brazen blasting, and swirls of mercurial bass picking (which occupy a central place in the song’s allure). Meanwhile, flares of ominously grand chords and discordant guitar lunacy, along with wild shrieks and wrenching yells, keep the song’s unnerving impact in the red zone.
The album is persistently bewildering and emotionally up-ending, teetering on the edge of mental breakdown. Even the somber piano chords that ring out in the “No Ease No Rest” instrumental diversion, backed by grim squalls of mutilating distortion, seem hallucinatory. And when “Hollow Caress” throws us back into the fray, the music’s mood is dismal and deleterious, even as the rhythm section segue into bouts of brutal pounding and paroxysms of jackhammering mayhem, and the guitars pulse and whine.
The star turn by the rhythm section in “Hollow Caress” really gets a listener’s pulse racing and head moving, but the rest of the band provide no escape from the gauntlet of despair and dementia they’ve been creating, and while “Venom Love” remains physically compulsive, with multi-faceted bass work that’s especially riveting, the music is also true to its title — venomous and twisted, and perversely seductive. It builds to a storm of chaos, with freakish trilling arpeggios intermixed with blaring chords and boisterous percussion.
Wisely, Moloken provide a bit of calm space in which to breathe through the instrumental track “Repressed“. But the slow, haunting guitar reverberation and twittering electronics won’t make those breaths comfortable. Moloken are too devoted to their mind-abrading mission to allow for that.
There are softer, rocking movements in “Lingering Demise“, which again allow the rhythm section to shine and the guitars and the bass to cast uneasy spells, though the anguished yells and vehement roars by the vocalists prevent the music from falling completely into dreaminess, and of course the song eventually returns to sensations of bombast and torment, with a clean, lilting guitar harmony, backed only by a slow bass pulse, introducing feelings of mystery and discomfiting introspection in the track’s closing minutes.
Those closing minutes of “Lingering Demise” induce a reverie, but the proggy extravagance of “Unbearable” gets the pulse pounding again, thanks to very catchy (and very funky) bass lines and a compulsive drum rhythm. There’s almost a feeling of joyful ecstasy, and certainly a mood of playfulness, in the song, making it up-beat in more ways than one — though it includes its fair share of strange, disorienting guitar excretions in the midst of all the powerfully body-wracking momentum (don’t lose sight of the song’s title — they picked it for a reason).
There’s one more instrumental diversion (“I Still Can’t Hear You“), whose jazz-like tones are alluring and maybe even a bit narcotic (as well as a little scary), before the album’s title track provides an explosive, full-throttle finale. The vocalists let it all go, and so do the instrumentalists, with the rhythm section shifting into high gear and the guitarists throwing themselves into one last display of freakishness and frenzy, of schizoid hysteria and mewling menace. You should guess by now that Moloken aren’t going to conclude their album without putting your teeth on edge one last time… and then giving you fearsome glimpses of the waiting void.
Unveilance of Dark Matter will be released by The Sign Records on January 31st. The album features mysterious cover art by Costin Chioreanu from Twilight 13 Media, who also collaborated with the band on an animated music video for “Unbearable“, which we’ve also included below, along with the previously released music video for “Surcease“.