Last year’s debut self-titled EP by Myrkur came practically out of nowhere causing quite large debate about the origins of the songstress behind it, the fact that it had been released by Relapse certainly fuelled the fire and cries about authenticity and hipsterism hit forums and places where the troo kvlt hang out making it all the more interesting. Now obviously we have a lot more insight and the knowledge that Myrkur is Danish singer songwriter Amalie Bruun who lives in New York and also sings in the much poppier band Ex Cops. The reaction to the EP got it noticed that’s for sure and I stand by what I said stating that it was a “breath of fresh air compared to the monotonous and plodding works of many solo black metal practitioners.”
Naturally the test would be a debut album and for those harping on about authenticity well the cast list of participants apart from the main composer should speak for themself. For a start it’s produced by Ulver’s Garm and no matter what you (and indeed I) think of his more recent efforts his credentials and past involvement in the true Norwegian side of things should leave him unchallenged, Then we have Mayhem, Nidingr, Nunfuckritual etc bassist Teloch along with Nidingr drummer Øyvind Myrvoll helping out here as well as a host traditional brass and string Scandinavian instrumentalists. No doubt this has sparked your interest and with Myrkur appearing on the cover of the latest Terrorizer magazine it would seem that we may have something of a new revelation in our midst, naturally though it’s all down to the music to do the talking.
The artist whose name means darkness in Icelandic and whose song titles here translate to the likes of ‘The Whore Must Die and ‘Vengeance’ should not only be looked at in such terms of delivery and atmosphere though. In fact the first thing we hear on that aforementioned first track title is what can only be described as a totally angelic vocal presence and one that as I said before would not be out of place on a Clannad album. A funereal marching folk like tone sees the music joining in and it is like a veritable death march but equally captivating as the opening fragrant chants. An elongated scream is however the only sense of something at odds as the track generally keeps everything clean and lilting, melody is its strength but you certainly wouldn’t look on this as being anything resembling black metal at first. After a sense of drama is installed amidst fluttering music and fairylike whispers reminding me a fair bit of Peccatum, the Vengeance comes in and a plodding beat opens things up and finally a ferocious pile-driving segment whiplashes in with vocals that sound like a person possessed by a demon throwing a temper tantrum. The contrast to the angelic script which flirts with these over the track is quite like a schizophrenic battle between good and evil going on and is highly effective. However the schizophrenic nature of things spreads into the album as a whole and with tracks being quite short and sometimes fragmentary you do find their stretch somewhat limited at times. This is certainly not the case with the sublime ‘Onde børn’ which really stands out and harks back to the original EP heavily. Still it’s more like a perfect dreamy Indie song that would have been released by 4AD more than anything else and it is likely to have those looking for more abject brutality gnashing their teeth, that said I love this little ‘Evil Child’ to bits.
The feeling of incompleteness about some of what follows does linger but still be it bounteous and beautiful or a flash of harshness things do win me over. It’s obvious that melody is a real strong point and like similar recent artist and sorceress Darkher vocals and the hypnotic touch of everything draws you right into this somewhat ethereal world. A simple piano motif and choral vocals is all that is present on the short ‘Nordlys’ (Northern Lights’ compared to the much more substantial Mordet which murders with harsh vocals again and some strident guitar work courtesy of none other than Chris Amott. The track does after a strong start tend to go off down a meandering experimental route and again somewhat fails to engage. Another standout part though is Dybt i skoven (Deep In The Forest) a track that makes it over from the debut and bewitches all over again. A somewhat unfocussed battering attack with rasping vocals and then another passage of piano wrap up the last two tracks and I do kind of find myself wondering what I have missed as it finishes around the 35 minute mark.
That’s pretty much the problem here and although there are a few excellent tracks here I feel that nothing particularly has been built upon from the EP. Perhaps this was rushed out to strike whilst the iron was hot but the spark is on the whole missing here. I have been cramming this album since I got it playing on a daily basis and avoiding reading any other thoughts, the simple fact is that although I love parts of it on the whole I have to wonder if this is going to lead onto anything or if the artist is going to vanish as quickly as she appeared.
(7/10 Pete Woods)