Mo’ynoq – A Place for Ash Review

Mo’ynoq is one of black metal’s most frustrating bands – a sky-high potential that never feels capitalized upon. Garnering an underground reputation with their self-released Dreaming in a Dead Language, the North Carolina quartet dealt in second-wave trademarks with an otherworldly twist about them. Balancing two vocalists, frosty tremolo and bouncy riffs, a touch of melody, and a maniac on the kit, the debut should have been a rousing success. Alas, as reflected in the gone-but-not-forgotten Lokasenna‘s cautiously optimistic review, Mo’ynoq never really got past tripping over their own feet. Dreaming… was an enjoyable album with its moments, its potential overwhelming every facet but very rarely capitalizing. First album in three years, sophomore effort A Place for Ash is vying for a spot in your hearts and year-end lists. Have they finally clicked?

Putting it briefly, no. But that doesn’t mean that A Place for Ash is bad by any means. They’ve toned down the melody that coursed through Dreaming in a Dead Language, leaving their sophomore effort painted in bleaker shades. Bumping up their heft to balance nicely with an even icier tremolo, Mo’ynoq has addressed the issues in favor of a more accessible album that does not forsake the act’s hallmarks. However, in exchanging one issue for another, songs can feel more directionless and inconsistent, while the intense percussion’s unpredictable kit-slaughter can make listeners feel lost at sea. Ultimately, bolstered by a three-pronged vocal attack and more dichotomous guitar production, A Place for Ash sees Mo’ynoq still relegated to “good” status.

The best of A Place for Ash occurs when the riffs and the vocals collude with intense precision. Openers “Penance” and “Throes of Ardent Disposition” are great examples, expertly balancing bludgeoning and shredding, while vocals bounce between an evocative blend of howls, shrieks, and growls courtesy of guitarists Don Boyd, Logan Holloway, and bassist Devin Janus. Trademark melody weaves its ghostly tendrils throughout pummeling blastbeats in “Effigies Adorned in Fire” and closer “The Beast That Mourned at the Heart of the Mountain,” the latter of which is easily the best track here. Melancholic plucking grows and expands into Darkthrone-esque tremolo and doomy pummeling that gives way to desperate howls, while ominously sliding riffs and heavy percussion pave the way to an ominous and bleak death. The melodic plucking and soloing remain touch-points throughout, giving an aptly beating heart to its shredding punishment, which grows more prominent as the track goes on. Compared to the relative thinness of Dreaming in a Dead Language, A Place for Ash offers a tastefully dense platter that never forsakes icy bite or kvlt “vo-kills.”

While the tracks are each solid in their own right, dealing in seven- to eleven-minute runtimes of long-form second wave, Mo’ynoq’s downfall lies in the drum abuse and songs that fall short by comparison. With this breed of sonic abuse, it is crucial that a tenet exists for listeners to hold on to amid the swirling maelstrom – an easy one being percussion. Drummer Justin Valetta is an absolute maniac, exchanging blastbeats for half-time kicks for plodding with relative ease, but his unpredictability is both a blessing and a curse. While it adds a distinct edge of insanity to “Penance,” for example, it derails the passage transitions of “Synchromysticism.” Perhaps a symptom or a cause, this makes the tracklist of A Place for Ash finicky. Centerpieces “Effigies Adorned in Fire” and “Synchromysticism” are ultimately forgettable aside from a handful of moments, the former the poorer version of “The Beast that Mourned…” and the latter the weaker take on “Penance.”

A Place for Ash is a step in the right direction, even if it may not be the magnum opus we know Mo’ynoq is capable of. They have all the right pieces and each proves its worth throughout, but just as its predecessor, A Place for Ash remains good enough to notice but rarely anything more. While it features some truly memorable epic songwriting to flaunt its formidable vocal attack and balance of warmth and frost, the jagged edges of trve kvlt make their presence known in unpredictable percussion and inconsistent tracks. Ultimately, one step forward and one step back is business as usual for this North Carolina group. Even if business is good, we need more from Mo’ynoq.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label:  Self-Released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 9th, 2022

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