Label: The Flenser
The promo for Out of Time, the new album from Mamaleek, describes the duo as “black metal weirdos”. It feels like a fair description; but also, on the evidence presented here, like a fairly tenuous one. That’s not intended as any kind of slight; rather, as anyone who has previously listened to the band will know, Mamaleek make the kind of music that isn’t so much difficult to categorise, as it defies genre almost completely. Out of Time, at various points made me think of funk; later-day David Bowie; art rock; Swans; dark jazz and, yes, avant garde metal. And yet, it always feels coherent, moving with singular purpose and direction, and far easier to lose yourself in than such a combination of styles might suggest. But more than that, it is an album with an unusual sense of character and humanity; most extreme music can feel like it is putting up a barrier between performer and audience, but this? This album wants to invite you in to share its pain.
It’s an invitation that’s hard to refuse. Even though every song on Out of Time seems to belong to its own micro-genre, it is a remarkably cohesive, almost accessible listen. No matter how many sounds or ideas are introduced, the sense of direction the album has never falters, and nor does its atmosphere. There is no mistaking throughout the course of Out of Time that it is anything other than a work of broad, incredibly progressive musical vision; the damaged lounge party conjured by ‘My Master, My Father, My Author’ is as integral to Out of Time as is the twisted shoegaze/post-punk of ‘The Recompense is Real’ as is the crawling dark industrial of ‘The Last is the First’. To describe the album as “varied” barely does it justice; Out of Time makes almost anything else you will hear this year sound utterly tame. In that sense, it almost feels like the natural successor to albums like 666 International, even if it is more structured, less intentionally “out there”.
But what impresses most about Out of Time isn’t the sheer range of sounds of offer (though that is, indeed, impressive). Instead, what makes the album truly noteworthy is its emotional core, which is something more clear than on previous Mamaleek records – as great as the likes of He Never Spoke a Mumblin’ Word and Via Dolorosa were, they didn’t connect with me on the same level that Out of Time does. Sure, it’s fairly easy to produce a snappy tag-line about the album – Swans meets David Bowie meets Celtic Frost’s Into the Pandemonium, perhaps – but it’s far harder to express just how emotionally loaded these songs are, or how their humanity feels like an inversion of most extreme music’s tropes. It might be a challenging listen, due to the sheer scope of sounds on offer – but it’s one that, as adventurous as it is, is somehow welcoming; that wants you to feel what it feels, to know that it hurts the same way you hurt.
And as such, it is an incredibly rewarding listen. There is, of course, the satisfaction of hearing a band making such varied, heart-felt music; but there’s also the emotional reward that Out of Time offers. It feels like conquering trials that had previously bested you; of facing down old memories that were lingering like a scar, and even if they haven’t healed, then you’ve at least managed to make some kind of peace with them. It may barely be metal in any recognisable sense – there’s practically no moments of bombast, no solos, and the heavy sections owe more to industrial and experimental electronic genres than they do anything guitar-based – but don’t let the lack of (or abundance of) genre tags put you off. Out of Time is an album that deserves far wider recognition than it will ever get, and is something very special indeed.