While most of us enjoy a good chuckle at the expense of scowling black metal purists from time to time, the idea that the genre could ever be restricted by some overarching set of rules has been preposterous for well over two decades now. As a result, something as plainly perverse as MORA PROKAZA's third album seems unlikely to have too many cave dwellers sniveling into their homemade DARKTHRONE security blankets. By this point, black metal has been twisted, refined, dismantled and reconstructed in so many bizarre forms that this Belarus duo were always going to struggle to shock. Instead, "By Chance" is fueled by a rather endearing petulance and spite, as familiar blackened tropes are willfully smashed together with ultra-modern trap beats and other electronic quirks, twanging frontiersman guitar figures float over eerie ambience and vocals are shrieked, barked and screamed in a variety of unorthodox ways.
The best moments come when MORA PROKAZA dispense with any pretense that this is a black metal record at all. Preview single "Check It" and the woozy dark-jazz nightmare of "Be There" are fidgeting and insistent bursts of art rock anarchy; sonically shrill and tinny, but somehow menacing and muscular too. In contrast, opener "WIMG" and "Sorry Man" are superficially rooted in late '90s, mid-paced and industrially inclined extremity, but this band's mischievous spirit ensures that everything sounds ever-so-slightly askance and out of joint. In fact, "By Chance" almost sounds designed to annoy the piss out of anyone that takes black metal too seriously. MORA PROKAZA's use of hip-hop sonics and trippy atmospherics is hardly unprecedented, but it's seldom been employed in such sparse, succinct and antagonistic settings.
The only real drawback to such an unhinged endeavor is that the world around us is far more berserk and disturbing than anything a two-man black metal band from Belarus can throw at us. But somewhere, deep in the warped banjo plucks and chamber doom melodrama of album centerpiece "I See It This Way" glimmers the promise of wilder and more divisive adventures to come. Should be fun!