Sunday, 14 September 2014

Myrkur - S/T EP (Review)


Album Type: EP
Date Released: 16/09/2014
Label: Relapse Records

‘Myrkur’ CD/DD/LP track listing:

1). Ravnens Banner (04:08)
2). Frosne Vind (01:50))
3). Må Du Brænde i Helvede (04:04)
4). Latvian Fegurð (04:19))
5). Dybt i Skoven (03:03)  
6). Nattens Barn (05:56)
7). Ulvesangen (00:46

Bio:

Emerging from the darkness of Scandinavia comes the debut EP by one-woman black metal band MYRKUR.  Combining the rawness of second wave black metal bands like Ulver and Darkthrone with a natural sonic, ethereal beauty, MYRKUR has created a wholly unique perspective on the genre.    With a distinct sense of Nordic isolation Myrkur’s debut is a feminine yet definitively brutal record that has burst onto the scene like a Valkyrie into battle.

Review:

Myrkur has been quite the topic of conversation over the last several weeks. Theis Dueland’s article on Vice’s website used Myrkur as the basis of an article decrying the misogyny and the foolhardy authenticity requirements of a vocal portion of the larger black metal scene. It’s a valuable article in that misogyny should always be called out and ridiculed for the vile societal cancer it is, but it’s a humanity-wide issue that isn’t unique to black metal culture nor is it more extreme in black metal culture. It’s uniformly damnable in any subculture, musical or otherwise. I bring all of this up, because the article piqued my interest in the music, setting the hype meter into the red.

That article also inspired a fiery debate, and I’d imagine Myrkur’s self-titled EP has been scrutinized under a much more powerful microscope than most as a result. The article’s author would have Myrkur championed as the only exciting voice in black metal over the last several years, while one of the Stereogum’s commenters, the author cites Myrkur as product over art. My belief is that it’s closer to the former rather than the latter, but calling Myrkur the only exciting new voice in black metal is premature and hyperbolic at this point, not to mention that there are numerous exciting voices in black metal in 2014.

When Myrkur is at its best, it ranks amongst the best black metal material of the year. “Latvian Fegurđ” soars with beautiful, melodic tremolo leads accompanied by otherworldly, empyrean singing. The vocals call to mind the reverb-drenched harmonies of Warpaint, though there’s obviously a yawning chasm of difference musically. Once “Latvian Fegurđ” slows down to catch its breath, it falls into an uneasy haze. If you can imagine a keyboardless Emperor circa ‘In the Nightside Eclipse’, you’re in the right ballpark. It’s great stuff!

The colliding moods brought on by the heavenly trem-picking and the woozy, hypnotic dissonance are the clear-cut strengths in Myrkur’s sound. For the (hopefully) inevitable full length, that should be the well from which the bulk of new songs are drawn. “Nattens Barn” starts off just as strongly as “Latvian Fegurđ”, but it begins to fall apart with the shift to the galloping thrash riff that starts about two-thirds of the way in. It’s a bit on the sloppy side and the kick is buried in the mix, which undercuts the power such a dramatic shift in tone might have accomplished otherwise. It recovers nicely by the end, with a return to the aforementioned melodic tremolo leads and blasting. Elsewhere, the EP loses some of the magic of the material I’ve already covered, veering off course into the listless but still pleasant (“Frosne Vind”) or the more or less generic (“Må Du Brænde i Helvede”).

I want to be clear that this is a very promising start. Through a stronger focus on what works musically and perhaps a stronger production (or at least a more even sound for the drum programming) Myrkur should live up to the hype it’s received.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

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