It’s not easy to blend more than three different genres and still come out with a listenable product; for every band that succeeds, there seems to be five or so that fail. It’s just too much to handle most of the time and ends up losing the magic that each individual subgenre can bring. This didn’t seem to stop Croatia’s Muka from trying to blend black, death, doom, and some ambient noise on their newest album, Sveta Stoka, and by Jove, they actually made it work.
Muka’s style leans towards blackened death metal more than anything but there are undoubtedly some other big influences in play. The droning, repetitive riffs occasionally slow to a crawl and suffocate the listener with disheartening doom-soaked traits, all the while sounding more like they’re meant for ritualistic use or derived from some bizarre natural phenomenon. There may be a lot going on, but Sveta Stoka is still certainly a far cry from anything that could be considered lively. Because of it’s repetitive nature, the album is perfect for building up an unfamiliar and uncomfortable atmosphere, but it only works if you’re in the mood for it. It isn’t a great choice for your dance party playlist, is what I’m trying to say. Muka make an excellent soundscape but it’s something that you need to be prepared to listen to; Sveta Stoka is dark and heavy, and definitely not universally applicable to all situations or moods.
The mix works, but it’s a little jarring at first. The drums and vocals sound distant for some reason, like they’re on another plane of existence from the stringed instruments. There’s this strange effect that makes the percussion especially sound like it’s farther away than everything else. Although, harsh and mysterious vocals are nothing unique when it comes to black metal and those work out just fine. The guitar tone is especially thick and dirty, which gives it a certain character. I hesitate to say ‘charm’, because that seems to be the polar opposite of what Muka is aiming for. There are times when the riffs are actually comparable to Meshuggah, in the sense that they seem very mechanical and almost percussive in of themselves. That’s not to say that Muka sounds like Meshuggah, but there is definitely a parallel between some of their guitar lines. The droning, inhuman riffing has an almost constant effect of sounding like it’s swinging – perpetually rising and falling, as if to hypnotize the listener. Sveta Stoka is borderline psychedelic in the way that it dizzies and mesmerizes.
I personally don’t have any experience with Croatia’s culture, language, or even their metal scenes. It’s interesting how the fact that the lyrics are in Croatian, which is entirely foreign to me, actually enhances the music, as it’s intended to be unfamiliar and unsettling. I’m not sure if this is what the band intended, but it certainly made the experience more intense. Sveta Stoka has the advantage of appealing to fans of multiple subgenres, and I find it likely that anyone interested in extreme metal will get some enjoyment out of it. It’s abrasive and mysterious nature may not click for you on your first listen, but there is undoubtedly some serious craftsmanship behind this release.
Sveta Stoka is now available through Muka’s Bandcamp page.