Honestly, we’re not really all that delinquent in our coverage of Come and See, considering it only came out in late March. But we’re long overdue to talk about it considering how much we raved about Mamaleek‘s last album, Out of Time (2018). The band’s eclectic, “barely blackened” style of blackgaze prompted a premiere and review, an Editors’ Picks nod, and a spot in our Kvlt Kolvmn posts celebrating the best albums of the month and the year. Suffice it to say, we were big fans of what the band was bringing to genre.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, I found myself stumbling upon Come and See by accident as I started compiling our weekly Release Day Roundup post. I genuinely couldn’t believe this was the first I’d heard of the band’s latest project, and I sought to rectify that fact as soon as Friday rolled around. After multiple spins, I can’t stress enough how inventive this band remains with each new release. More importantly, their seemingly endless imagination is channeled into compelling songs that are somehow emblematic of black metal’s core spirit while contorting every aspect of the genre’s foundation.
If it seems like I’m harping on the “black metal or nah” discussion, it’s because there’s value in reinforcing this kind of experimentation. All of the guitar passages on opener “Eating Unblessed Meat” fit comfortably underneath the umbrella of post-black metal: the angular arpeggios, the reverb-heavy atmospheres drenched in post-punk melancholy, and (of course) the surges of tremolos riding atop driving percussion. And yet, the track employs a variety of other moods and influences, doubling down on these post-punk influences while also exploring some twangy and psychedelic moods. The end of the song even features some bluesy soloing and an almost danceable drum beat while pained vocals bark over the cacophony.
Obviously, none of this is taken straight from Second Wave Norwegian classics. But genres that take that mindset are asking for stagnation, and Mamaleek have too many ideas to find solace in treading water. Immediately after on “Cabrini-Green,” the band composes around some jazzy guitar and piano phrasing and melodies before cycling through a flurry of blackened noise rock and shoegaze. The track, as well as the album itself, draws influence from “Chicago’s notorious Cabrini Green housing project,” something translated most clearly with the vocal intensity that persists throughout.
A key element of the album’s success is the original duo’s decision to write and record with a full band. Even without knowing that fact, it was clear from my first listen that Come and See had a level of magnitude and sonic exploration beyond the band’s previous albums, a distinct achievement considering the excellent and adventurous nature of their discography. The percussion in particular benefits from this expanded lineup. Regardless of what part of their sound the band are exploring, the drumming is always on point and helps create a more fluid, natural flow.
Even when the black metal fades from the forefront, it remains a constant influence for the album’s overall aesthetic. “Elsewhere” is a Jekyll and Hyde composition that constantly shifts between buoyant melodies and cacophonous instrumental outbursts. “White of the Eyes (Cowards)” weaves dark jazz and lounge moods with noisy flashes of saxophone, bass, and percussion. Similar moods are explored on the album’s final two tracks, including an excellent 9-minute closer with “We Hang Because We Must.” I love when bands essentially summarize their album’s strengths in an epic finale, which is certainly how Mamaleek close out Come and See.
As was the case with Out of Time, Mamaleek’s music is difficult to classify but effortless to adore. Come and See shows Mamaleek more fearless than they’ve ever been, producing one of the finest releases from any “extreme” genre this year. While I maintain the band are one of the most important innovators within a genre famously resistant to change, the most important takeaway from this piece is that Mamaleek are excellent, and you should treat yourself to what they have to offer.
Come and See is available now via The Flenser.