of the North

Written by: LF on 24/11/2014 14:23:12

While Magtesløs is not a new band on the Danish metal scene, it has been four years since they last released an album. In spite of their Danish name their songs are in English, and in spite of its meaning (magtesløs is the Danish word for 'powerless') their music packs quite a powerful punch. Knowing them for the past two years primarily as an energetic live-band, I have really been looking forward to a new and more mature release by them. While it fortunately doesn't sacrifice any of the uncompromising and youthful energy of the band, this record is exactly that.

The album is divided in two parts dubbed "Mammals of the North" and "Birds of the North" as reflected in the song titles of the respective parts. The two parts are divided by a very short interlude of white noise and while the split at first seemed to be mostly a conceptual division, it also marks a transition to a different kind of composition. Overall the record retains the same musical direction throughout, namely one of raw hardcore power combined with more melodic rock tendencies that ends up pushing it into metalcore/post-hardcore territory. Most songs are kept short and to the point and while they're gritty and aggressive, a lot of the time they also sound curiously huge, providing layered guitar riffs and energetic drumming instead of blast beats. There's a certain sense of inevitability and willpower in them that makes itself known first through some powerful lyrics and is then further reflected in the viciousness that the band flaunts across the record, whether it be through the ferocious screams and growls of their vocalist, or in atmospheric, instrumental stretches and chugging breakdowns.

The songs on "Mammals..." seemed the most easily accessible to me at first, and this has to do with the fact that they cement their presence in an entirely different way than the "Birds..." songs. It makes all kinds of sense when considering the choices of animals in the titles, ultimately making the concept of the record entirely meaningful to me. The ferocious and wild mammals are reflected in the brutal and almost threatening approach of the music, signified as well by how these first songs include the most simple breakdowns of the record. The lyrics of this first part also seem to call more attention to themselves, whether it's in the dramatic intro lines "I am the wolverine / and I come with victory" of "The Wolverine" that are rhythmically underlined by the instruments, or the softer screamed "I can still see the sunlight breaking through the lens when I close my eyes / I can still hear the sound of silence that woke me up" that is introduced in "The Wolf" and further developed in "The Wolf pt. II", or the certainty of "But now is not the time to be speechless / We have something to stand for" from "The Mole" that develops with some solid gang vocals.

The "Birds..." section then is characterized overall by compositions that are more tightly knit. They still feature breakdowns and are just as uncompromising in their energy levels as the previous songs, but they appropriately manage to soar way higher and don't feel as bottom-heavy. Already from "The King Fisher", the guitars seem to weave in a different way, steadily advancing the song without attacking as brutally as on the "Mammals..." songs. Where the lyrics before were very dominating elements in the songs, here the instruments and the sheer sound of the screams seem to step in and command more attention. Instead of conveying an overall threatening, forceful mood, these songs feel more thoughtful as they circle round and round. The breakdowns are not as simple as earlier but rather more dynamic for instance on the relentless "The Goshawk".

All this being said for the "Birds..." songs, the forward-striving, circling sound of "The Lynx" is still the strongest on the record for me (closely followed by "The Wolverine"), to the point where the strong chorus of "I will not wait for the lynx / Cause I know it will wait for me" has been impossible to get out of my head for a while. The song shows the band playing with rhythm in the vocal department while not abandoning the simpler metalcore chugging that is prevalent especially on the first half of the record, and the song feels more complete as a unit than some of the other "Birds..." songs, the ideas of which are perhaps more interesting. The memorable moments of the latter half of the record end up blurring together for me, even as the riff from "The Goshawk" and the dynamics in "The Marsh Harrier" for instance stand out, along with bits of lyrics like most prominently the yelled ending of "Slave the day away at night" that ends the record on "The Barn Owl".

In the end the songs on the latter half of the album don't manage to stand out from each other in the same way the songs on the first half did, and overall I wouldn't mind some more experimentation for instance with the riffs across the album. The production of the record could also be polished a little here and there, as "The Wolf" for instance has an awkwardly silent break midway, "The Wild Boar" has a bass sound that could be smoothed out more, and the electronic breakdown ending of "The Mole" feels unmotivated. Ultimately however, the record certainly has some good ideas. The willpower it exhibits is of the kind that ends up drawing you in hypnotically whether you want it to or not, and I can only imagine that Magtesløs' live sets are going to be even more entrancing with these songs in them.


Download: The Lynx, The Wolverine, The Goshawk
For The Fans Of: Misery Signals, Glass Cloud, Underoath, August Burns Red

Release date 25.09.2014

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