When light and shade combine it’s more often than not that you experience some very interesting results. Album ‘M’ by blossoming Danish artist Myrkur (aka Amalie Bruun) has now passed its two-year anniversary and throughout the course of those two years has managed to receive some very positive responses. Released on August 21 2015 via Relapse Records, the album has proved itself to be a very evocative one which showcase the extraordinary talents of Myrkur from both a songwriting and technical perspective. The solo artist isn’t only shining beacon of talent in M’s ensemble, however. Other important contributing members to the project include Teloch of Mayhem on bass / additional guitars and Øyvind Myrvoll of Nidingr on drums. The album was produced by Garm of Ulver fame and other noteworthy guest appearances include Criss Amott of Arch Enemy.
The album opens with five-minute track Skøgen Skulle Dø, a rollercoaster song which is to say the least an apt introduction to the level of diversity and change that takes place throughout the album. A minute passes by and you beginto hear violins in juxtaposition with hard-hitting riffs, and your initial thought may very well be “What is this?” as it’s very much unlike anything else. It’s fair to say that the widely used ‘black-metal’ almost comes across as a mere throwaway term for this music as in actual fact it is just one of the many styles explored throughout. When all the commotion of the first piece is over, second song ‘Hævnen’ takes centre-stage and you hear a more compact and defined sound at this point. Distorted tremolo guitars indeed make an appearance which justifies the categorizations of them being a black-metal group a tad more. Then, of course, you get the “hit” of the album. ‘Onde Børn’ is simply majestic and its accompanying video is harrowingly spectacular. It is probably the most streamlined and accessible song as it truly showcases a fine sensitivity for melody combined with atmospheric touches. It is mid-tempo and one of the more mature releases to emerge from a modernized metal setting. ‘Dybt I Skoven’, like the aforementioned track has its pop sensibilities in a mid-tempo way making the two slightly analogous to one another. Normally it’s very easy while listening to a record to find common ground between two or more tracks. With this album, however, it is difficult seeing as each track has its own identity and sense of individuality. The high-point of the LP is, for me, a section titled ‘Mordet‘. Not particularly due to the individual song itself but the fact that it is bookended by two absolutely gorgeous piano interludes, ‘Nordlys’ and ‘Byssan Lull’, in fact I like to see the three of them as one entire piece of its own because the manner in which it segues from one to the next just works so well. Then, in a flash, delicacy is once more discarded with ‘Skadi’, a mind-numbingly thumping heavy metal song in which power, extremity and intensity are brought to the max. What I really love about the drums here and throughout the record is that there isn’t an overly ubiquitous exploitation of crash cymbals, so when a crash cymbal finally does appear it really reinvigorates the energetic spheres. The vocal styles of Myrkur aren’t just confined to sitting in total isolation amidst their gentility, other-worldiness and beauty; – on this particular track you get the total opposite in which the distortion effects are incorporated and it almost sounds as if she’s using a megaphone. It is strangely disconcerting as to how she can alter her style of singing from one moment to the next as it changes the mood of the whole event and breathes new energy and character into it. Upon wrapping up the review I just have to give one special mention to ‘Vølvens Spådom’, an ornate a cappella piece which clocks in at just 01:37. Now, indeed you’re probably thinking, “Out of all the tracks why is your favourite the shortest one which seems merely transient due to its stripped-back arrangement?”, and, I think it’s almost for that reason exactly. It isn’t just a mere a cappella piece but rather a demonstration of how the voice can be utilized as an instrument. Choirs and orchestras begin to seem almost unnecessary when you’ve got Myrkur whose unique ability to conquer all in the vocal department is just astonishing. Its following track ‘Jeg er Guden, I er Tjenerne’ is loosely based on its theme but nowhere near as elaborate and blissful. Overall it’s an album of constant ebbs-and-flows in which the seemingly counteractive forces aren’t used as a vehicle for opposition but rather coalesce into a complimentary conglomeration.
Line-up: Myrkur: vocals, all music & lyrics, piano, guitars Teloch: additional guitars & bass Øyvind Myrvoll: drums
Ole-Henrik Moe: Íslensk fiðla, hardingfele & violin
Håvard Jørgensen: Acoustic guitar
Tone Reichelt: Horn
Martin Taxt: Tuba
Chris Amott (Arch Enemy): Additional guitars on “Mordet”
Recorded at Oak Hill, Subsonic Society & Tomba Emmanuelle
December 2014, Oslo, Norway
Mixed by Anders Møller and garm, January 2015
Mastered by Jaime Gomez Arellano at Orgone Studios
Produced by Garm (Ulver) & Myrkur
Photography by Trine + Kim Design Studio
Design: Orion Landau
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