By: Daniel Jackson
Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 21/08/2015Label: Relapse Records
At this juncture, Myrkur has proven to be capable of material that is truly special, with the sort of vivid musical imagination welcome in any genre, metal being no exception. What’s most exciting is what an even deeper exploration of this kind of folkish black metal, rich with creativity might yield a couple of years from now.
‘M’ CD//LP//DD track listing:
1. Skøgen Skulle Dø
3. Onde Børn
4. Vølvens Spådom
5. Jeg er Guden, I er Tjenerne
8. Byssan Lull
9. Dybt i Skoven
Myrkur | Piano, guitars, vocals
Teloch | Bass & additional guitars
Myrvoll | Drums
Ole-Henrik Moe | Íslensk fiðla, hardingfele & violin
Håvard Jørgensen | Acoustic guitar
Tone Reichelt | Horn
Martin Taxt | Tuba
Chris Amott | Additional guitars on "Mordet"
When originally sitting down to write this review, the first two hundred-plus words of it came out as an angry tirade directed at anyone expressing the opinion that Myrkur being a woman is a detriment to the music, or are saying anything about “hipster metal” or “metal tourism”. In the interest of addressing the “issue” but not letting it overrun the review I’ll just say that if a woman making metal music bothers you: you’re an idiot. If you’re worried about metal tourism: shut the fuck up. I can guarantee you’ve failed your carefully constructed “metal” persona every day of your life in some way or another just by living your life as anyone would. Enough.
With that out of the way, ‘M’ is an always good and often great album. The improvement between last year’s self-titled EP and this year’s debut full length is substantial. In my review of the ‘Myrkur’ EP last year, I essentially said that while there was promise, Myrkur wasn’t quite “there” yet. With ‘M’, Myrkur arrives fully-realized, and much more well-rounded. It’s by no means a perfect album, but it musically satiates my thirst for music in the style Ulver’s ‘Bergtatt’, which Ulver themselves have no intention of revisiting. That isn’t to discount Myrkur’s own inventiveness and artistry, which is ever-present throughout the whole album.
Some songs work better than others, though I’d still describe the least effective song as above average. At the top of the pyramid, we have “Skøgen Skulle Dø”, which may be the most scintillating opening to a metal album this year. After some light, plaintive choral singing; the song erupts with resounding toms and piercing fiddle. It conjures the sort of roaring atmosphere that so many surgically-recorded folk metal bands seek to capture but clinical production techniques won’t allow.
Another fantastic highlight is “Onde Børn”, which has the strongest Ulver influence of anything on the album. A more accurate assessment might be to say that it shares an adjacent space to Ulver’s music, working a familiar-enough vibe into the song to warrant comparison, but different enough that it can stand proudly on its own. In that sense, it’s in good company alongside "Les Feuilles De L'olivier" from Les Discrets’ debut album ‘Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées’. “Mordet”, on the other end of the emotional spectrum, is a snarling and much better-conceived counterweight to the album’s overall tone. Where “Onde Børn” is something of a pleasant musical fantasy, “Mordet” is driven by traditionally bleak black metal songwriting with added musical theatrics. Blast beats, dissonance and rage keep the album from losing steam at the midway point and also serve to keep the album away from treading the same water for too long.
The weaker moments on the album come in the form of songs like “Byssan Lull”. While they are easy on the ears, they also leave an impression of agreeable filler rather than vital to the whole of the album. Perhaps that was the point. The album is perfectly lean at thirty seven minutes, so perhaps a couple of these two-to-three minute interludes are meant to keep the album over thirty minutes. They’re never really detrimental, but perhaps they might have been better utilized as pieces of the proper songs instead. It might have also been better to make use of the two choice songs from the EP. They could have been used here in place of the aforementioned interludes and had a much greater impact with the richer sound of ‘M’.
Even with a few less-than-memorable moments from a couple of filler tracks, the bulk of ‘M’ contains some of the best material I’ve heard this year. At this juncture, Myrkur has proven to be capable of material that is truly special, with the sort of vivid musical imagination welcome in any genre, metal being no exception. What’s most exciting is what an even deeper exploration of this kind of folkish black metal, rich with creativity might yield a couple of years from now.