Myrkur - M
Black metal

Release year: 2015
Reviewed by Charles
Hey, wow, controversy. Can’t be bothered to recount the backstory at this juncture. The problem for me here is that because this is not an EP I can’t hedge my bets by giving it no score, thus avoiding making a decision vis-à-vis whether it’s ‘the future of black metal’ or a hipster plot. The former term is Terrorizer’s, and is clearly bollocks, but that kind of overstatement has provided lots of people with an excuse to slag off someone who doesn’t seem (figuratively) local. Anyway, I am super-positively disposed to Amalie Bruun for much more important reasons: because she has publicly stuck up for the right of musicians to be paid for the work they do (see the spat between her indie band Ex-Cops and McDonalds). “Exposure” and “experience” are results of paid work, not substitutes for it!!

Anyway, I am digressing. It is true that I think the hardline black metal purists slagging off Myrkur are super lame, but it is also true there has been a lot of extraneous stuff surrounding the project which has encouraged people to go on about it being a marketing ploy. Still, even if we accept that argument, at least the target demographic is ‘people who like black metal’, rather than ‘randy occidentals with no real interest in music’ as in the case of BabyMetal.

Musically, the most common criticism of Myrkur runs as follows: “this is very derivative. It’s just reheated early-90s riffs given a bit of a superficial twist with these angelic female vocals”. Yes, but this still makes it more original and forward-thinking than almost every other black metal band, who present reheated early-90s riffs without any twists at all, superficial or otherwise. In fact, M perfectly nails that unimpeachably black metal characteristic of combining sublime power and atmosphere with cheesy or amateurish elements.

The EP had quite a specific method. Take low-fi, folkishly-inclined black metal riffs which strongly channel Bergtatt, and ornament them with crystal clear female vocal harmonies, that sound like the background music to the entrance lobby of a particularly high-class Santa’s grotto (the one at Harrod’s rather than Netto). I liked it. This time, there necessarily has to be more going on. Indeed the first three tracks here, while those vocals remain an instantly recognisable trademark, really pump up the folk elements, laying on string parts and arcane atmosphere so as to channel Windir or even someone like Glittertind. The riffs are simple and mid-tempo, but it’s actually very evocative and presents a richer sound than anything on the EP.

After this, the sound disperses and becomes more uneven. There are a number of quite fluffy little instrumental interludes that mainly serve to make the sudden, squawking abrasiveness of something like Mordet seem even more squawking and abrasive. There are also very direct attempts to create a sort of fist-pumping, singalong anthem in the form of Dybt I Skoven, with its incredibly simple riffs, thumping drum beat and repetitive melodic line. Way better is Skaði, with its bestial, distorted vocals. This is probably the most threatening and I’ve heard Myrkur sound, and its black metal credibility cannot really be doubted. And I should also mention my favourite song here, Jeg er Guden something something which starts off as weird shapeless noise, before suddenly switching gears into a slow, doomy riff, with incongruous major-key vocal lines that give it a warped ecclesiastical feel.

So, a patchy album in some ways, but also an ambitious one. It is never less than interesting, and at times it is even quite powerful. It is not surprising that so much discussion of it has focused on its legitimacy but in my opinion this is not actually an interesting question- the ‘jargon of authenticity’ and all that. Let’s not be mystical about this: like any genre, black metal is a set of musical ideas and techniques which can be understood and used by anyone, even if they have previously played in indie bands.

Killing Songs :
Hævnen, Skaði, Jeg er guden, i er tjenerne
Charles quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Myrkur that we have reviewed:
Myrkur - Mausoleum reviewed by Alex and quoted 80 / 100
Myrkur - Myrkur reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
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