Though he is remembered as a knight, constable, courtier, and duly beheaded traitorous conspirator Sir Michael Stanhope would never receive recognition for his most prestigious role under King Edward VI. Knighted in 1545 and a member of parliament until 1547 when he became the right hand that would literally wipe the shit from the ass of the King. The official title of Groom of the Stool may appear as shitwork out of context but Stanhope was no wet nurse but, rather the appointed ‘number two’ in Edward’s entourage. The balance of power would shift dramatically in the new few years leaving Sir Michael one of the final documented royal wipers. If you’ve fallen in love with the reality of the royal appointed wiper as a concept then consider how unfitting the title was for now defunct homonymous Raleigh, North Carolina progressive blackened death metal band Grooms of the Stool. Funny and interesting as the name might’ve been their album ‘The Absence of All Good’ (2015) surely found less traction than it deserved because of the inherent poop joke that discovery entailed. Their grasp of melodic black/death metal informed riffs (see: “A Most Unfit Soul to Sell”) probably deserved a more serious approach in hindsight. Three of four members would likely agree as the dissolution of the band saw fit their conjoined future with Heron vocalist / guitarist Logan Holloway in the form of Mo’ynoq.
The project was named for an abandoned city in western Uzbekistan famously destroyed by man-made ecological disaster, a great lake of poison, providing a band name apropos analogue to southern California’s wretched cancerous bath of future-death, the Salton Sea. The sum of this newly formed project is immediately serious, tastefully guided by old progressive tendencies and ‘current’ avant-atmospheric forays felt throughout modern unorthodox black metal. High art adorns demo, EP, and now full-length each meticulously crafted and professionally realized. Even the most casual glance would glean that this project aims for meaning and relevance, however conscious those efforts may be. So, I soaked in Mo’ynoq‘s saline lake of rusted machine appropriately feeling sorrow for the slow death of habitable Earth and in doing so took no measure of the discography with a grain of salt. For those already familiar with the distant scrape of Holloway‘s ‘depressive’ black metal vocals on Heron‘s ‘DYZU’ back in 2015 the first notable differentiation in his performance on ‘Dreaming in a Dead Language’ is immediate presence elevated by greater expressive variation. The same could be said of Mo’ynoq as a whole when considering the past works of the musicians involved.
Independent from their inception Mo’ynoq‘s initial demo, ‘Anguish and Atonement’ (2016), would be their most obviate toying of influences in the greater conception of style and sound. In bringing the abrupt psychotropic horror of Portal to the fluid pools of Wolves in the Throne Room they’d found a medium that could express as thoughtfully as Krallice but with the post-Deathspell Omega aggression of modern Icelandic black metal. The powerful dissonance of “Celestial Rebirth” juxtaposed with the post-hardcore informed atmospheric black metal of “Fell Heir” on the bands ‘Bardo’ (2017) EP manifested as a war between worlds that would portend their impressive fusion on ‘Dreaming in a Dead Language’. The ‘progressive’ nature of this arrangement is more clear in hindsight than moment-to-moment immersion as the pulse of Mo’ynoq‘s sound surrounds post-metal spectacle with depressive scowl and occasional breaks into Bosse-de-Nage-esque territory. When a piece does call for pointed aggression the style employed is akin to a more ‘present’ dissonant black metal sound, something similar to Guðveiki or a less pensive Negativa (Spain). Because of this inherently ‘modern’ expression it becomes hard to place Mo’ynoq into one comfortable category; Though they are categorically atmospheric upon first impression the dissonant, forward-thinking experimentation within ‘Dreaming in a Dead Language’ offers no simple ‘genre entry’ allusion.
Familiar as the pieces of Mo’ynoq‘s whole may seem to those inducted into the greater pool of modernist black metal the structure and arc of ‘Dreaming in a Dead Language’ is easier to follow and toil within thanks to their use of somewhat standard post-rock pastiche as transition for ranting nature of post-hardcore translated through the ringing dissonance of post-black metal. I am surely providing disservice in suggesting soft, flaccid bones for such a grand album but this is what separates this work from the harder edged melodicism of a band like Barshasketh, or the meandering occult gush of Svartidauði. No doubt the true ‘anti-hipster’ crowd ducked out a paragraph or two ago anyhow. I welcome the blend of atmospherics, depressive howls, and burly avant-dissonance though I did occasionally feel like the very slight melodic black metal influences on ‘Anguish and Atonement’ (as well as ‘The Absence of All Good’) could bring some greater memorable passages into the mix. As a full listen this debut was typically good for 2-3 spins at a time and across the span of a few weeks my interest waned around the tenth or so listen. The artwork and production are equally beautiful and professional, so this is easy to recommend as a purchase though only for those that are in love with the trappings of modern atmo-dissonant post-whatever affected black metal. Moderately high recommendation. For preview I’d suggest “Witness to the Abyss” as it offers abrupt gratification and eventual dissonant horror, then “These Once Tranquil Grounds” for its bristling intro and warming entirety.
Archways unto anxious death. 4.0/5.0
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