Myrkur – M

Release date: August 21
Label: Relapse Records

By Wouter.B
Myrkur has attracted a lot of attention after her initial self titled killer EP. Her debut album, simply called ‘M’, is due on August 21st. Will she deliver to the standards and expectations the hype around her has formed? Two answers: (1) yes, and (2) yes – here is why.

Myrkur is a Danish one-woman black metal project. Her controversial use of a beautiful soprano voice with nightmarish screams and growls and great musical qualities make her something special in the otherwise male dominated black metal scene.

The album, albeit it short with just under 37 minutes, has everything. A bit of Mayhem (De Mysteriis) true Norwegian Black, a bit of Ulvers’ Bergtatt genial minimalistic song composing, a bit of Agallochs’ more psychedelic side (Our Fortress is Burning on Ashes Against the Grain) and something that I can only describe as Myrkur: tender brutality and uncomfortable perfection.

Part of the hype around this album is the production and recording, which was helped by Garm (Kristoffer Rygg) of Ulver. Although all music was composed by Myrkur, the bass was played by Teloch of Mayhem and drums by Øyvind Myrvoll (Nidingr). Both are a huge improvement compared to the EP and are played with great quality. Dibt I Skoven (Deep in the Woods) has been re-recorded on ‘M’ and is an improvement compared to the EP, especially on the guitar side.

‘M’ opens with Skøgen Skulle Dø (‘Harlots Shall Die’), starting with just her voice that I’ve come to love so much. The multi instrument (orchestral) continuation of the song forms a good measure of the musical genius that she is. This song puts her voice, guitar riff and bass- and drum line all into one outlandishly beautiful composition.

Onde Børn (Evil Children) was released earlier as a single/clip and teaser, which I found a bit disappointing (almost too poppy?) when watching it. The album version however is somehow much better. Perhaps it is because her guitar is so good, playing at half tempo with a nice dual toned riff and melodic solos. Perhaps it is because this (melodic and easy listening) song transitions so masterfully after the more brutal and threatening Hævnen (Vengeance). This latter is an intricate piece of aggressive bass and guitar riffing, aided by screams and counterweighed by her clean voice and melodic instrumentation.

One of my favorites is Nordlys (Northern Light). This song is the best musical interpretation of seeing and experiencing this northern magic. The build up, the dancing change and waning of northern light, as well as the ending in bitter cold darkness one has to accept when above the polar circle (yours truly attests)…it is all put to music with just a piano and voice in this 2:16 piece.

This tenderness transitions into something angry and uncomfortable on Mordet (Murder or Assassination), a song I found hardest to appreciate. I came to love it nonetheless, with its gruesome screams and brutal riffing and well used (blast) beats. The same holds for Skadi, a song with a more traditional black metal sound, combined with the characteristic reverbed and pained screams.

I found the recording masterfully done. All instruments stand out separately when called for, or form an aggressive cocktail if the songs’ character is such. Especially given the ‘loudness war’, ‘M’ has a very acceptable dynamic range 9 with a min of 7 and max 13. There is one slight I could find on the recording of Nordlys, which has audable clipping noise when the tones go up on her otherwise beautiful voice. I sincerely hope this is due to the mp3 compression that was used for this promo.

This album never bores. The diversity between songs (catchiness, brutality, tenderness) together with the both masterfully written and played music makes me repeat it again and again. Myrkur shows a love and passion for music as well as a creativeness and technical ability that I find magnificent.

Rating 9.5/10
Tracklisting:
1.Skøgen Skulle Dø
2.Hævnen
3.Onde Børn
4.Vølvens Spådom
5.Jeg er Guden, I er Tjenerne
6.Nordlys
7.Mordet
8.Byssan Lull
9.Dybt i Skoven
10.Skadi
11.Norn

About Wouter.B

I am a Dutch metal and festival enthusiast. My interests, besides Metal, are in the realm of cats, cars, carbon and Process and/or Mechanical Engineering (and some photography). I have a specific adoration for Scandinavia, especially Finland and Norway. Wake me for instant coffee and vodka before noon, but only when abroad. Maybe you will find me finetuning my stone age dance ritual to keep warm, during sausage grilling in a snowstorm.