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Myrkur | ‘M’

Sometimes it can be hard to see the forest for the trees.

Sometimes you just have to cast the bullshit and noise of popular opinion aside and focus on what is in front of you, just so you can take it on its own merits.

Enter Myrkur (that name…), a one woman black metal act who criminally also plays in a non-metal band, comes from Denmark- and thus pushes the European angle, naturally- but lives in New York (so is probably really a hipster).

Well, the chances are you know the story and have seen the shit-flinging online over the last six months or so.

Oh, she’s also signed to Relapse, a label that used to pride itself on never having released a black metal album. Make of that what you will.

A Malleable Resource

I had heard a song or two from her previous EP but had, perhaps subconsciously, written the band off for all of the same reasons as every other naysayer (just look at those ‘reviews’ on Metal Archives).

Then ‘M’ landed in my inbox.

It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I sat down to review this record. I listen to a lot of BM. I consider it to be something kind of sacred, as dorky as that sounds, and I don’t necessarily like the idea of bands abusing it.

It is, however, a most malleable resource, as has been proven time and again over the last two decades.
It can be well and truly fucked with. Its essence is strong enough to take a hammering, shall we say.
But still… Hipsters, you know?

To say that I am surprised at how good, at how respectable this album is says something.

Is it black metal? Yes, it will be black metal to some. It will not be black metal to others. It is very much a black metal of the 2000s.

Black metal for the Wolves in the Throneroom generation, you might say.

If that sounds snide then that is not my intention. In fact, this has arguably got more going for it than those Portlandians’ efforts, whose music has proven itself a bit undynamic over time.

Fragile Beats

Garm (Ulver) recorded this and he did an incredible job of capturing something that is animalistic and aggressive when it needs to be, yet ultimately beats with a fragile folk heart.

Apart from Amalie Bruun’s beautiful, haunting melodious vocals, the star here is the deep, earthy violin that worms its way through each song. And the melancholic, Tenhi-ish piano that appears now and again, for that matter.

Some of it sounds like Enya. Some of it sounds like it has been taken directly off the Lord of the Rings OST. Some of it simply has its own, downbeat folky vibe that is convincing and truly appealing.

In a recent interview she mentions that she has a deep interest in Danish folk music and that is very much apparent. There is an authenticity to those parts that cannot be denied.

In fact, it is the non-BM elements that stand out, in my opinion. There is such tenderness and emotion woven with those elements that the harsher parts sometimes feel a bit superfluous; kind of there for the sake of it.

Convicingly Sinister

That’s not always the case, though. ‘Skadi’ has a convincingly sinister weight that is aided by thick low end piano, evoking a tangible darkness, and her harsh vocals are more than respectable.

Yet, when all that heaviness is pared back, there is no denying where the real power is. Those melodies- sad, beautiful, haunting and all that sort of thing, they are a treat. Her vocals remind me on more than one occasion of Neige’s wonderful dreamy work on Alcest’s ‘Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde’.

Musically Myrkur are a bit rawer sounding than that comparison implies. Not in a bedroom kind of way, rather those rustic folk elements add grit to the experience. An oxymoron, perhaps, but trust me.

‘Dybt i Skoven’ is somewhat at odds with the overall tone of the rest of the songs. It introduces a pulsing indie rhythm that sounds too upbeat- the kind of thing you’d hear on a Vodafone ad. It’s not a bad atmospheric pop song in its own right, I suppose, but is out of step with the feeling achieved across the rest of the album. And as for adding fuel to the fire…

This band will always be divisive. They will remain embraced by more people outside the sphere of the black metal underground and will be shunned and treated with skepticism and scorn from those within it and I think that’s unfortunate as ‘M’ genuinely has a lot to offer.

Ironically, I reckon that if she had avoided the BM tag completely and sold herself as a neo-folk/folk artist she would have been more readily embraced by the skeptics.

For anyone on the fence, I’d recommend parking your prejudices for thirty five minutes, forget this is supposed to be BM and just enjoy it for what it actually is- a well-crafted and highly enjoyable piece of dark, folky metal. One that is perfect for this turning time in the year, too, I should add.
Colour me pleasantly surprised.

3.9/5 Andrew Cunningham ::: 16/09/15

  1. I’m in the Love It camp, it’s a very classy album. Double thumbs up here!

  2. justincredible Says:

    Btw, another good review Andrew.

  3. 3.9 ,,, you’ve jumped the shark man

  4. Sounds like a heavy metal Slowdive.

  5. god that’s just woeful, wtf happened to black metal? The murders and burnings and ridiculous interviews were at least entertaining but this is like music for a yoghurt ad.

  6. justincredible Says:

    What’s wrong with yogurt?

  7. That’s not what I expected based on the other track I had heard. It could grow with more listens or having the whole album. I thought her top was going to fall off as she rolled down the hill. When I say thought I mean hoped.

  8. Really well put together review, almost had me convinced, then I listened to the track embedded at the end.
    Nah, sounds like enya singing for a post-rock band, not bad, but definitely not my buzz.

  9. Im hardly a cheerleader for it, but it’s fair to say the album is the correct way to consume, rather than by single tracks.

  10. Listen to (dolch) instead of this rubbish

  11. @Andy – something I find interesting is the “is it/isn’t it black metal” discussion around it. As someone who enjoys black metal and this album, what is if for you that you think puts it into the black metal camp when you yourself mention it probably would’ve been better accepted as “neo-folk”?

    What is it the skeptics are skeptical of by her calling it BM?

  12. Im sure it is better as a full album no doubt, but not being a particular fan of folk metal(which is what I’d label it as) the track is a good indication its not my buzz, just doesn’t have any bite.

    Drum sound is alot better than what was on her last record.

  13. I have the Album a while now and I’m really enjoying it – regardless of the her musical background don’t give a toss . It’s a decent Album .

  14. Jesus Phish, what I was trying to get across there was that BM heads are pretty hard going on anything they deem to be hipsterish/false. Her background puts her in that bracket, whether rightly or wrongly. I think that if she had dropped the BM parts completely and focused entirely on the folkier parts and sold the project as a dark folk band instead, then people might have given her more time. But as it is, chick from non metal background playing (post-ish) BM, it was always going to get messy for her. I think that when you separate the music from the scene politics it’s quite good in its own right. That is how all music should be judged, but is rarely the case.

  15. Bad Reputation Says:

    Nice review, made me give it a listen – wasn’t going to bother. Sounds decent, Alcest of a few years ago is strong throughout, and you can smell Ulver off some parts, even a bit of Clannad at points… and those are all good things in my mind. Tis’ not black metal – but I guess the underground shitstorm garnered her publicity galore, and that always helps rather than hinders with music if the art is anyway half decent behind it all.

    If only she’d change that band name…

  16. Black Shepherd Says:

    Listened to this a while back and thought it was pretty good but couldn’t hack the female vocal parts at all… just that same horribly, overly polished, soulless gack. Pity.

  17. More coments than cruciamentum !!! That’s a worry

  18. Just listening to this a fair bit more. Our gal aiming – indeed very successfully at times – at a real Kari Ruselatten feel from early 3rd & The Mortal. In fact the track ‘Byssan Lull’ could be her. No bad thing.

  19. Absolutely awful. And I’m so kvlt I’m living off In Flames’ “Colony” all week. Never mind, she’ll have moved on in a year or two from this “black metal” tourist trap

  20. Utter balls on a shtick

  21. I just wanted to second the “Listen to Dolch” sentiment above. Zero interest in this record.

  22. Dolch?

  23. Tezcatlipoca Says:

    (DOLCH) is a band.

  24. Female fronted blackish metal band !! Much better than the above shite

  25. Ah, right, ta

  26. I’m not sure I’d even call them “Black metal” strictly, the guitars are fairly Burzumish but there’s as much shoegaze and 4ad as anything else.

  27. Fair review…Really like this album. Would love to see this live but apparently wont do a live performance in a typical gig setting…or without a choir…

  28. The years this site has been active and the topic of an album discussion is if it is or is not black metal, jesus lads give it up.

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