Last year’s big surprise for me was Palingenesis, a beautiful neo-folk album that beat out some really good death metal for my year-end list’s #9 spot and led to me purchasing the very last vinyl copy Nebelung had on them (suck it). At first glance, progressive sludge/doom outfit Moloken might not seem anything like that troupe of cello-wielding Germans, but All is Left to See turns out to be full of surprises, offering up hints of everything from sludgy post-metal to blackened hardcore to that beautiful mix of timbres that Nebelung command so well. But can such scattered influences really produce a cohesive whole?
All is Left To See begins with a breath bounced back across itself to lead a rolling sludge riff accented by clangs from the bass. “Subliminal Hymns” proves itself a strong opener, mid-paced and extremely simple but glimmering with a hint of intrigue. Though Moloken‘s music lacks the technical prowess and mind-bending experimentation of typical prog bands, their approach to music is itself abnormal. All is Left to See proves itself paradoxically fascinating within the first few songs. “I Can’t Hear You,” a short and echoing bass-led instrumental, drapes itself across the space left between the title track and “Burst,” a blackened minute of blasting and shouts reminiscent of a less angry Plebeian Grandstand.
It’s the fifth song, “Seventh Circle,” that really makes an impact, heaving branches onto a pyre of tension in its first half, then abruptly switching gears into a strange melody that slowly slips away after just a few moments. Moloken‘s compositions’ greatest strength – and fatal flaw – is their strangeness. “Seventh Circle” never really resolves musically, but its lack of a clear endpoint fits well within an album that’s structurally scatterbrained but held together by a unique combination of melody and idiosyncrasy.
At under thirty minutes long, All is Left to See proves easy to play on repeat, and its steadfast rejection of conventions makes it worth the time to unpack. The album’s greatest moments, including the first half of “Seventh Circle” and the viola-led closer “Beginning of the End” are a pleasure to find stuck in between less interesting, more typical songs like “All is Left to See” and “I Dig Deeper.” The album’s production is warm and “wet,” despite the bands death metal undertones, and really brings out Moloken‘s unique sound – something similar to Izah‘s debut from earlier this year, but with a far more avant-garde approach; it’s easy to see why Temple of Torturous picked up the band.
Though All is Left to See might not resonate with many listeners and is certainly an oddball release, its atmosphere is a great success. Moments of beauty glint like coins far away down the wishing-well, and each descent towards them rewards the listener with a tiny personal adventure across its mossy inner wall. Moloken cast a shadow of warm, inviting darkness that’s difficult to shrug off but fades quickly and without much warning. Though I recommend the experience, bands like Nebelung and Isis present much more unified takes on the parts of their sound that Moloken borrows from, and if you’re going all the way down that well, it’s better to know at the top whether that glint is gold or pyrite.