Album Review: MIZMOR Prosaic

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Call it blackened doom if you want, but suffice to say Mizmor has a crushingly dark, yet hauntingly atmospheric, take on extreme music. Masterminded by one Liam Neighbors, the Portland broke out with 2016’s Yodh. The album showcases Mizmor’s balance of weighty riffs, stirring soundscapes, and ghoulish vocals, effectively freeing the project go in many directions with subsequent material. For 2019’s Cairn, that meant increasing the production value for a more tightly-woven experience. But for Prosaic, Neighbors favors a raw, agonizing exorcize of the Mizmor sound.

The way “Only An Expanse” hits the ground running with a mid-tempo blast and simple, dissonant tremolo riffs is telling. It plays like the Transylvanian Hunger of Mizmor albums, with some of Neighbors’ most chilling shrieks. It maintains this steady flow for four minutes. Not only does it not get old, but it creates that classic black metal hypnotic effect to the point where the drop into lethargic doom is a welcome surprise.

Like early songs from fellow Northwestern dirge-mongers Bell Witch, the doomy parts don’t try to fill empty space. Chords strain and leads creak over earthy, yet blunt percussion—in perfect contrast to the blackened primitivism. It’s not just the contrasts that count, as Mizmor finds some middle ground through rumbling double kick grooves and strolling chug riffs. Neighbors’ songwriting remains at the core of the proceedings, giving tastefulness to match the rawness.

Even when “No Place To Arrive” centers on glacial morosity, Neighbors keeps things moving with well-timed riff changes and his signature eldritch death rattles. The low-end muck might bring images of nomads trudging across an arid desert, before settling around the campfire for an acoustic interlude. And yet, it returns to frost-bitten forests for a Dissection-style black-metal waltz, showing how diverse Mizmor can become in a more primal setting.

Prosaic stands as an example of a musician limiting their tools, to get to the core of their appeal. “Anything But” may not throw any curveballs, but it sure stays engaging with its dynamics and catchy motifs. A spoken word/tremolo chord intro and the forlorn acoustic outro sandwich a slow-moving caravan of smokey guitar strains, chilling leads, and painful howlings. On paper, the changes in sections aren’t particularly distinct, so Mizmor owes this tremendous impact to tactful arrangements. His mastery of heaviness and emotion remains on full display.

At only 45 minutes long, Prosaic provides consistently killer Mizmor tunes with no filler in sight. This would explain why “Acceptance” stays far away from boring as it progresses from a monolithic procession and tumbling speed. Neighbors knows which riffs are worth repeating, and when to divert the feel for another salvo of despondent ecstasy. In this way, Prosaic remains an awesome example of blackened, doomened, whatever-ened goodness, unconcerned with a pretentious concept or overindulgent instrumentation. Mizmor hits hard and bluntly in all the right places.

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