Mgla are the exemplars of Polish black metal. They play melodic black metal that isn't immediate in its beauty, though a dark elegance does surface. Groza, which they released in 2008, was a promising debut, and on 2012's With Hearts Toward None they began to come into their own in terms of composition and lyrics. Exercises in Futility, their third full-length, improves upon Hearts' template, with guitarist/vocalist "M." Zentara and drummer Maciej "Darkside" Kowalski delivering their most spirited performances to date. It doesn't just set the standard for black metal in their home country, it's one of the finest black metal albums this year. As its title implies, Futility is focused on a pessimistic, defeatist worldview. The opening line is "The great truth is there isn't one," a tone-setter if there ever was one. Mgla also balance their bursts of nihilistic euphoria with mid-paced sections that show discipline without sacrificing majesty. "II" uses this contrast as a springboard?the slower melody naturally builds into the brighter, faster vortex where hypnotism is a means of getting towards something bigger, not an end unto itself. "V" is another master study in these shifts?the slower sections are their darkest grooves, and when they race off, they run farther and faster than anything on the record. It's rare to see two players so clearly meant for each other, and Mgla's accomplished performance on Futility transforms the lyrical content into a call to action. Great metal can harness strength from hopelessness; turning that strength into art is a blustering triumph. "The great truth is there isn't one" may be a swift roundhouse, but it's one that it will sober you up to find your own purpose. And on "IV", M. howls "Every empire/ Every nation/ Every tribe/ Thought it would end/ In a bit more decent way," a sentiment that can be applied to more than the collapse of states; it's the radical acceptance that there is no such thing as a clean break. No, Futility doesn't sell you the promise of a better world taken like gummy vitamins. But by offering no promises, it does open you up to take control for yourself, and what's more positive than that?