With some honourable exceptions, black metal bands seem to be avoiding South-Eastern Europe. For no reason really, as the sold out Mgla show in Zagreb proves. There are clubs and individuals that are perfectly able to organize and promote the shows, and there is interest among the metal community. A lot of interest. Judging from the registration plates on the club’s car park, people from all over the place came to see the band, some came even from neighbouring countries.

I arrived late, just prior to Mgla starting their show, because the babysitter costs money. The club was packed. I bought a beer at the bar and greeted some familiar faces. The band came on stage in an unspectacular way, pretty much at the announced time, and started slaying without much ado. There was no announcement, no greeting, no anything. Only the deafening cheers of the audience once everybody realized that the show was underway.

Standing in one line, hooded and with covered faces, dressed all in black, all wearing the same jacket, the band’s guitarists looked like the grim reaper times three. That impression stayed with me for the entire show, because apart from expertly playing their instruments the band members were scarcely moving (with the exception of the drummer, of course). Instead, they were standing stoically in one position, unflinching, not stopping or taking a break. And I only realized what a feat that was after I had fought my way to the front of the venue, because it felt like a sauna there.

Mgla slayed their way through their last and probably best-known album Exercises In Futility, inserting some older numbers, but also a couple of songs from their new album, Age of Excuse. The audience liked the pieces from Exercises In Futility best, and at one point even a mosh pit formed with some gentlemen going berserk. My favourite piece of the night was Age of Excuse II, a melodic, fast track from the new album.

Mgla played for just over an hour, and then went off stage, the way they had gotten on – suddenly, without a warning, with no ceremony, no thank you’s or good byes. There was no encore. But there was no need for one. The show, uncompromising, breath-taking and absolutely convincing, was enough. One of the things that I will certainly remember is the atmosphere created by the band members’ dehumanized look, their calm and grim posture, and the contrast it created to the furious, expertly-played, sweeping black metal.

And now to the elephant in the room: Are they Nazis?

Like in Germany, there was some controversy prior to Mgla’s show in Croatia. The club’s management was contacted by various organisations and asked to cancel the show. The club, one of the breeding grounds of Zagreb’s alternative culture, after discussion and deliberation, decided against cancellation. They found that the band were primarily accused on the basis of association: They associate with Nazis, so they must be Nazis. I think that the club did the right thing, especially since Mgla themselves deny the allegations.

The fans, obviously, didn’t care, and came en-masse. That’s probably because black metal, in general, is rather apolitical. It’s about nihilism and misanthropy (misanthropy, by definition, doesn’t discriminate between people). It’s about the fact that on a cosmic scale nothing matters, that whatever our achievements, our struggles, they are just Exercises In Futilty.

The best we can do is to take it all stoically, behave decently, and not invent reasons for bad behaviour in this Age of Excuse

Review and Photos Slavica