SPLIT-PERSONALITY METAL WITH A BLACK HEART
Now that winter has passed, and with it any last chance of actual snow, the best accompaniment for listening to this record – apart from the darkness of night, natch – is fog. Thick grey dark ffffffog, the fog that really fucking HANGS. John Carpenter Fog.
Failing that, pissing-it-down rain will do – in fact, anything but mystique-stripping midday sun or soul-death flouresence. M, see, is spiked by shards of black metal.
Not that you’d know that from the opening bars of Skogen Skulle Do with its choral voices and waltzing violin sweeps… rustic, serene, unmetal in extremis. An undead scream and swell of horns may well usher in the Threat of the Ominous, but even this is swept aside by luscious pop gothic til the hornswell returns and hints at the sinister ahead. ’tis compelling, beautiful and far from isolated on this all-over-the-place debut… the plaintive piano/voice of Nordlys (shades of Tori, Under the Pink) and Volvens Spadom‘s folksome acappella bring frosted perfection. When Myrkur sings, she’s with angels.
But such melodic abundance means that when the ugly does appear – as in the black metal shred that flays second track Haevnen – it’s ferocious and ultraviolent by contrast. Haevnen‘s feral blasts are fleeting, cut short by hooks so sweet that your head spins… how can that become this within seconds? On one level, mad as a bag of bats. On another, stupendous turns of pace and mood, and that’s the way M works: fluid shifts between extremeties. The middle ground skirts with Eurometal trad-ness, but it’s those outer edges – beast and beauty – that work best. M’s mellow transcends metal completely, and so massive is the divergence from the vicious that there’s a Fantomas-like absurdity of extremes. You could well imagine Patton M careering between the vocal poles of Myrkur’s M.
So who’s behind the slick-yet-schiz 37 minutes? Myrkur – Amalie Bruun – handles voice, guitar and piano, while Mayhem/Ulver-sourced names are among the hands that flesh it out (Ulver’s Garm produces), which could be why there’s no shortage of texture, as with the Sigur-esque guitar coursing through Oybt I Skoven’s pop-metal sheen, or drama, like Norn‘s sleepy tranquility after the carnage wreaked by Skaol. Thing is, not once do you feel that these tracks do not belong together, coz they absolutely do. There’s a common aesthetic. Is it black metal?
Not for the many many hatemongers out there who destroy the idea that this album, this artist, has any credentials AT ALL: not BM, not ‘kvlt’, nothing but Relapse-hyped PR fakery. Somehow, these people think that online aggro is justified.
Unnecessary. Let’s move on.
Is Myrkur of black metal? No doubt, yes, but the crucial thing is not what she is/isn’t – we’re just dealing in pointers and indicators, after all – but just how bold, wintry and weirdly thrilling this record really is. A sprawling White Album mess of a double that ventures even further and longer would be a shit-hot follow up.
Released 2015 on Relapse Records