At this point, mixing shoegaze / post-rock with black metal isn’t exactly breaking ground. The most casual fans of either genre know of bands like Deafheaven and Alcest, but even those titans have never really managed to capture the expansive beauty of the former without at least slightly compromising the unhinged intensity of the latter. In 2018, Denmark’s MØL released ‘Jord’, an incredibly promising debut that managed to channel both aspects of the sound almost perfectly, thanks in no small part to the crystal clear production job and Kim Song Sternkopf’s utterly monstrous vocal performance. ‘Jord’ took what had historically been a genre rooted in a low-fi world and made it sound slick and modern, without losing an ounce of atmosphere or emotional heft. After such a strong debut album, all eyes were on MØL to see if they could follow it up with something even stronger.
As if there were any doubt, ‘Diorama’ is a masterpiece. While their aforementioned peers may have fallen considerably closer to the softer end of the genre scale, MØL have expanded their sonic spectrum equally in both directions and made it work faultlessly. The melodic parts are more melodic, with the band employing clean vocals to great effect on tracks like ‘Photophobic’ and leading us through stunning atmospheric passages on the album’s title track. There’s even the odd moment where it’s verging on poppy; the contagious opening bounce of ‘Vestige’ could be mistaken for a band like Coheed & Cambria or Astronoid if it wasn’t interrupted by Sternkopf’s harrowing shrieks.
On the flip side, as the old cliché goes, the heavy parts are genuinely heavier; the pummeling double-kick drumming on ‘Serf’ will leave you struggling to catch a breath, and the tremolo riffs on ‘Tvesind’ are as pointed and frosty as anything “trve” black metal has mustered over the years. MØL are clearly a band who understand all the different layers that make up their sound, and have perfected the art of drawing on the best parts of their influences and using them to craft something that is unmistakably theirs.
There isn’t much more to say except that you should definitely listen to this album if you have even a passing interest in extreme music. With ‘Diorama’, MØL have set a new bar for the genre, and if there’s any justice they will come to be held in the same regard as the household names of their scene.