Review Summary: nothing new to see here
In a musical zeitgeist where genre-combination, stylish throwbacks, and bands pulling from an ever-diverse array of influences is the norm, does that make an artist who does not stray from the conventional patterns and best fit line, in fact, special? One could probably make a case either way, but Mgla (incorrectly spelled like this, without the Russian lettering) fit themselves well within the confines of black metal. Then again, black metal has always been an arena more so than others that prized devoutness. With Hearts Towards None
, this Polish duo won’t break any barriers or blow minds; but there’s a charm in the sheer sincerity and over-the-top stylistic approach that screams fuck it
just about more than any record this year.
The main draw of With Hearts
is the climactic songwriting prowess. Mgla are masters of constructing tension. “III” is the most moving of all, providing a welcome crest to the wave that is the slowly-building first few tracks. That being said, there are definite flaws even in Mgla’s most glaring strength; namely the fact that “VII” drags so unapologetically, seemingly only because it’s the final track.
While a distinct atmosphere is present throughout, it won’t hit many listeners as hard as expectations, especially when their ears are used to the masturbatory techniques of metal acts that focus overwhelmingly hard on atmosphere and aura that they injure just abut every other aspect of the record. So Mgla succeeds in comparison, but unfortunately other aspects of the record don’t hold up quite so well.
The entirety is built around fanaticism and unflinching, black metal orthodoxy. The most egregious of Mgla’s uncompromising adherence to black metal standards is displayed in the lyrics, with its themes of satanic theism and glorious self-destruction. I often have a difficult time taking shi
t like this seriously, but Mgla manage to keep this rather tasteful and convincing. While this is important, it doesn’t appear that creativity was much of a factor for Mgla in the recording process. With Hearts Towards None
relies firmly on the black metal backbone, but you’re not left with much when you strip away the platitudes: tremolo-picking, typical production, lack of bass, reverb-laden vocals. In and of themselves these aspects don’t make a bad record -obviously- but they’re orchestrated in such a cliche way that brings nothing new to the table.
The sad part about With Hearts Towards None
’s relative popularity at the moment is that there doesn’t seem to be much substance behind it. The concept is performed adequately for the most part, not much more and not much less, but those who have already delved back into the crypts of obvious 90’s black metal essentials like Burzum, Emperor, or Dark Funeral won’t find much new here. It’s in impersonation and adaption that charms with its passion and relative dexterity at first, but why go back for more? The concept and aims of Mgla are so unyielding that With Hearts Towards None
tends to wash over listeners in a haze, providing no real memorability or impetus to return.