There are two ways to describe what the black metal scene has been undergoing for the past few hours: you can either see it as a revival of a sound once calcified or as an assault on what makes the genre great. It is an advantage of those who stand outside of the scene to be able to view these events with a calm detachment and perhaps a clearer head; some parts of it are indeed contrite and pointless, attacks for the sake of attacks, but some parts offer rare musical gems. Myrkur is one such project. We won’t spill more ink to recall the turning of events around her emergence unto the scene, but suffice it to say that her first, full release has poured substance into the theoretical idea that she is indeed earnest about her passion for black metal. It presents us with classic moments performed in a fresh way, all supported by the vocal performance of a talented singer.
The first thing that should be noted is the involvement of one Kristoffer Rygg also known as Garm, Trickster G. Rex and recently God Head. This name has been added to the project behind the production stand as much more than just credentials, although his name certainly lends a certain black metal gravitas to the undertaking. More than that, he has brought his staple signature to the production of this album: weird, Ulver-like synths inhabit the background of much of the album and the entire thickness of it just screams Garm. And scream it does. If anyone had any worries that Myrkur would go soft, they are quickly dispelled. In fact, the album is almost self aware in this regard and makes sure to smash such qualms early on: post-intro track “Hævnen” is a furious onslaught, high toned screeches over relentless bass tearing apart any atmospheric expectations.
However, this album stands on its own legs. It’s far than just a statement or a finger in the eye but rather a musical creation, complete and self-possessed. “Onde Børn”, which follows right on the heels of the aforementioned opening track is a good example of this. Instead of just continuing the line of the previous track, it introduces the elements which make Myrkur unique. Her non-genre singing style, open notes above dreamy instruments, is extremely well utilized here. The signature drums of the genre are a reminder to what kind of album we’re listening to, while Garm works his magic with blending choirs, screeching strings and an overall, metallic creepy vibe.
The rest of the album continues to build on these foundations. It deepens the search into the two pronged root at the base of Myrkur’s approach to black metal: preserving on one hand the abrasiveness, grandeur and melancholy of the genre while introducing eclectic and foreign elements whose purpose it is to enhance the overall presentation. Perhaps this reveals the main weakness of the album. Two legs is not that many legs to stand on in modern metal and the album can get repetitive in its obsession with the chiaroscuro between the two ideas. It can often feel like we’re trapped in a pendulum, forever swinging between black metal and dreamy post black metal.
If the incessant need to prove oneself or to tell the community something would have been conquered more often, more interesting passages and ideas would have been possible. At the end of the day, this is a well executed album but one which finds itself to preoccupied with the established ideas of the genre it operates in. It spends too much effort in re-executing them in new ways instead of actually saying new things. However, it is extremely well executed and produced. Its sincerity is its main redeeming quality: it’s obvious it was done out of genuine love of the genre and its sounds and a desire to do right by them. Therefore, it should please any open minded listener looking to taste the classic ideas of black metal with an interesting twist but not for someone looking for a reinvention of the genre.
Myrkur – M gets…