I feel as though there could be more to unearth, that we’re just scratching the surface, and I’m intrigued to see what comes next. However, if Prosaic is just a singular experiment, then we'll happily keep coming back to its captivating lures.

a year ago

The last time we heard from MIZMOR it was as part of a collaboration with cohorts Thou on last year’s rather excellent Myopia, an album that appeared on quite a few AOTY lists for its masterclass in epic sludge and blackened doom. As good as it was, to these ears the project sounded more like a Thou release with guest contributions from Mizmor. So, it’s pleasing to get a dedicated new full-length from the Portland multi-instrumentalist just fifteen months later.

Mizmor’s sound has always been wonderfully eclectic, jumping from black metal, to doom, drone, sludge, even folk at the drop of a hat and with relative ease. Prosaic follows this well-trodden path, but the immediate thing that jumps out is this album feels more relaxed than previous releases. Less angry? Perhaps. More accessible? Certainly. This is still a Mizmor album; it’s heavier than a bison wearing a cloak of lead, but the foot has been lifted off the pedal ever so slightly, enabling the music to breathe and grow.

Sole protagonist, A.L.N, appears to have made a conscious decision with this album’s direction, stating he wanted “an album that was less obsessed-over, more honest and real; less grandiose and more human”. Mission accomplished. While previous releases, such as breakthrough album Cairn, have an other-worldly atmosphere, Prosaic feels far more organic. Even the production sounds warmer and intimate. The drums are lower in the mix than I would expect, but when you listen closely no element is overpowering or imposing, it all just gels together in a very satisfying way.

14-minute opener “Only An Expanse” starts out as a traditional break-neck speed Mizmor offering, but slowly morphs into a hypnotizing melodious beast that you never want to end. The buzzing guitars and double kick drum combine beautifully to create a wall of sound that washes over you like waves of black smoke, before eventually winding down to a sparse electro-acoustic finale.

The acoustic guitar rears its head throughout the album, but never overstays its welcome and is used with purpose and poise; it wants to take you somewhere, even if that place is a darkened cave enveloped in thorned branches. “No Place To Arrive” features a lengthy, almost medieval interlude, luring you into a false sense of security before exploding into blast beats and screams once again.

Even though the overall tone is calmer A.L.N doesn’t feel the need to add clean vocals, and I’m very pleased he doesn’t. Clean vocals have their place, but on music this bleak they would be ill judged in my opinion. His abrasive rasps are the perfect accompaniment. Gone are the high-pitched animalistic shrieks from earlier releases, but it’s likely they wouldn’t fit the vibe of this album, so are an understandable absence. What we do get is the addition of spoken word backing vocals on “Anything But”, which bring some reassuring moodiness to proceedings.

This album wants to swallow you whole; it’s utterly immersive and almost entrancing at certain points. Yet, everything also feels closer and easier to reach, as opposed to the vast soundscapes created on Wits End and Dialetheia. In some ways Prosaic sounds like a direct reaction to those more expansive releases. The need to feel something real and tangible instead of spiritual and existential perhaps. In terms of subject matter, religion takes a back seat and is replaced by far more down to earth musings, such as living in the moment, acceptance, and contentment. Not topics you typically associate with black metal or doom, and certainly a fresh perspective for Mizmor.

This was clearly a very personal project for A.L.N. He talks openly about his battles with depression, and it does feel as though you go on a journey with him throughout the album. We can only hope this venture was a cathartic one. It does sound (on record at least) as though he enjoyed making this album, and surely that can only be a positive thing.

It will be interesting to see if this new direction is a simply one-off, or if we witness an evolution of this stripped back, earthlier approach on future releases. I feel as though there could be more to unearth, that we’re just scratching the surface, and I’m intrigued to see what comes next. However, if Prosaic is just a singular experiment, then I’ll happily keep coming back to its captivating lures.

Prosaic was released today, July 21st. Simply click on through to the Bandcamp page above to grab it. What a time to be alive!

Phil Knock

Published a year ago