Sweden’s Mylingar make legitimately terrifying music. If the most debilitating nightmares of your most dread-filled childhood nights took physical form, Mylingar would be their voice, retching decay and misery directly into your brain. Theirs is a sound that provide no protection from the horrors slinking broken and hungry through the black of night. No light. No hope. No remote chance of escape. Just excruciating, unrelenting punishment channeled straight from the darkest, most fear-ridden corners of your subconscious. It is, quite honestly, the music your mother warned you about. The stuff that pastors have railed against for decades. It’s the brand of violence that record stores kept buried on the dustiest, most remote shelves. It’s the soundtrack that undergirds late-night news stories about children driven mad by the demonic power of metal music. In short, it’s everything blackened death metal can and should be.
Over their first two releases, these musical misanthropes have carved from flesh and bone their own uniquely bleak niche within the death metal world. Their songs are a swirling, undulating hurricane of discordant and dissonant riffs that crawl and stomp over one another with a level of violent intent that I have yet to find apt comparison to. Displaying very little divergence in style over these releases, Mylingar have instead doubled down on the audio punishment, building on the foundation laid by each previous release to create something equally if not more brutalizing. If the translated titles of these records are any indication (“dead roads” and “dead dreams”, respectively), the band have no intention of relenting from their established pattern of chaos. Their third release, Döda Själar (“dead souls” this time around), confirms this theory by continuing their tradition of musical insanity, delivering another batch of tracks that are as putrid, vile, and utterly insatiable as those that came before.
For those unfamiliar with Mylingar’s work, it’s difficult to find truly applicable points of reference. Think Portal, but less heady. Or perhaps Ulcerate, but far more aggressive. There are vestiges of the most intense tracks of Anaal Nathrakh’s catalog as well, but mostly bereft of that band’s blatant sense of theatricality. They really are a sound unto themselves, and the band take no time at all reminding us of that fact. Opening track “Obalansen” kicks off the record with an immediate slash of jagged claws to the jugular, presenting absolutely zero build-up toward the inevitable punishment we as listeners are about to receive. It’s an in-your-face statement that brings back from the crypt the band’s signature and utterly filthy guitar tone, which is consistently contested by the band’s rhythm section, which pummels listeners relentlessly throughout.
Brutality aside, however, what the band present on Döda Själar is far from bland, monotonous chaos. These tracks have solid writing chops behind them, adding flavor and variety to an otherwise (and mostly still) seething caldron of black and death metal sounds. Both of the album’s first two tracks feature doom-laden passages that slow the proceedings down considerably, providing something that feels almost like breathing room before all space is snatched away by another suffocating salvo. There’s also a surprisingly hefty amount of melody buried deep within these tracks, particularly in “Offret”, which features multiple passages that feel as if they contain other songs desperate to burst forth from the maelstrom, only to be snatched just before emerging by the inescapable clutches of the band’s overwhelming penchant for destructive tones. It’s on the whole a tireless exercise in continued suffering, but cannot be faulted for refusing to contain a few spicy bits.
If any of the above sounds remotely appealing, the remainder of the album delivers much more of that sweet, sweet flagellation. “Mållösheten” thumps to life with all the energy and menace of a funeral march for the undead, while “Giftet” gallops out of the gate with some of the most virulent black metal passages yet displayed in the band’s playbook, allowing the drums to open up into some fun and punk-ish territory. But the whole edifice crumbles under the magnitude of album finale “Förlusten”, which features an opening riff that, beneath the sheer wall of noise, could easily be found on an Immortal record, grounding the track in a way that few of Mylingar’s other compositions have. As the track continues, however, things just keep getting more bleak and aggressive, leading to a madness-inducing crescendo filled with enough harsh noise to make Gnaw Their Tongues wince. It’s a brutal, cathartic close to an album that intends nothing but harm.
As a music writer who revels in all things extreme, I’ve encountered more than a few aggressive records in my day. That said, I can safely and definitively state that Döda Själar is one of the single most sonically violent, performatively chaotic, and utterly oppressive records I have ever heard. Mylingar have tapped into something exceedingly dark with their third release, and fans of their earlier material should rejoice in the knowledge that the band have lost absolutely none of their edge. Whether you find Mylingar’s exceedingly intense interpretation of blackened death metal appealing or not, it would be nearly impossible not to admire the singularity of their vision and its execution. Döda Själar will most certainly be counted among my favorite records of 2019, and I can confidently assume that I won’t be alone in that opinion. Absolutely punishing.
Döda Själar drops August 2nd on 20 Buck Spin, and is available for pre-order on the band’s Bandcamp page.