Written by: AP on 07/07/2017 21:07:17

When Myrkur first emerged in 2014, she aroused both puzzlement and scorn among her native folk in Denmark. Who was this woman, proclaiming herself a black metal artist, and how was it that no one in the country’s tightly coupled scene seemed to ever have heard of her? How dared she infringe upon a genre dominated by men and, even worse, propose to innovate on it? The dust has settled since then, but she remains as divisive as ever; Myrkur was quickly exposed as the alter-ego of Amalie Bruun, whose past musical exploits include penning the title song for the reality TV show “Paradise Hotel” and forming one half of the pop-duo Ex Cops. Not exactly the sort of credentials one would expect from the latest Relapse-signee and certainly not from a black metal act, yet there was something intriguing about the lengths to which Myrkur had gone to build up an image as someone deeply fascinated by their Scandinavian heritage.

Myrkur’s eponymous début EP never landed on my table but the lead single, “Nattens Barn”, was so promising that I made a note to follow her progress closely. In 2015, she released “M”, her first long play, but then, one supposes that we were too busy face-palming about the debate to do with her gender and ‘trveness’ that was resurrected by a smattering of neanderthals, to actually focus on the record. When Myrkur set a release date for her second studio album a couple of weeks ago, however, our neglect came back to haunt us and as a Denmark-based media, we felt it was obligatory for us to pitch in with our thoughts even so late. Such retrospect comes with an advantage, too: one already knows the ‘future’ direction of Myrkur. And having heard both newer songs and live renditions of the “M”-material — how spellbinding the songs can be — it is difficult to understand why Myrkur wanted to embrace the production style of Norwegian black metal in the early ‘90s, when it was paramount that everything sounded raw, unpolished and preferably as s**te as possible. One of the most pressing issues with “M”, thus, is the lack of depth and oomph in the mix, which might have worked if the music were as extreme as Darkthrone et al.’s, but instead makes most of these songs sound too hollow and frail to ever be convincing.

That is not to say that Myrkur lacks potent ideas on “M” though. The mixing of doom with orthodox black metal in “Hævnen” would be intriguing even without the magnificent, Nordic folk hymn that Bruun conjures with guitar and voice in key in the chorus, while fans of Alcest’s ilk will appreciate the cinematic instrumentals and siren singing in “Onde børn”. “Mordet” spreads the palette even further, opening with a riff that betrays an affinity for Metallica’s 1986-opus, “Master of Puppets”, before a cascade of blastbeats then invites us into the Blashyrkh universe of Immortal. What makes this track stand out, however, is the trollish instrumental passage full of keys and bells in the middle and the subsequent segue into a finale of intense tremolo work and the most deranged screams yet by Bruun. “Skaði”, meanwhile, captivates by way of marrying the grim-yet-epic style of Icelandic black metal to the Scandinavian folk melodicism that lives in the core of everything that Myrkur writes.

The degree to which Myrkur’s heritage is entangled in the music of “M” is both a blessing and a curse, however. When blended into a foundation of black or post-metal, it lends a grandiose and unique character to the pieces in question. But when Bruun removes metal from the equation as she does in “Vølvens spådøm”, “Nordlys”, “Byssan Lull” and “Born”, the effect is that “M” becomes a disjointed and helter-skelter kind of endeavour. She plays and sings those songs beautifully but because of them, a red chord is all but missing from “M”. Indeed, one gets the feeling that Myrkur was still very much in the process of carving out her own niche on this record but judging by the standout moments, her sophomore outing, “Mareridt”, promises to be the breakthrough.


Download: Hævnen, Onde børn, Mordet
For the fans of: Alcest, Saor, Ulver
Listen: Facebook

Release date 21.08.2015
Relapse Records

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