Myrkur - Myrkur (2014)

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Metal albums do generate buzz, if not in the same way that other genres do. I can't recall the last time a throng of teeny boppers lined up outside the local Walmart or Target to be the first of their friends to snag a copy of the new Opeth or Cannibal Corpse. At least not in the States. But the buzz that begins on this wonderful series of cat filled tubes called the internet is just as important. Some bands, many in fact, wouldn't exist if not for their online reach. So in the case of Myrkur, a one woman black metal band from Denmark, the widespread intrigue can be felt on every webzine, metal blog, and major publications. Shrouded in mystery, there isn't much in the public forum about who she is, but when the first samples of her debut album on Relapse came darting through your modem, you knew you were now witness to something special. And the hype machine has never been more worthy.

To form the complete black metal sound is a challenge in and of itself; bending and twisting it to make it unique is another ordeal entirely. Whether it is reshaped by the clean singing that opens Ravnens Banner or soon after as the underlying melody shows both clarity and depth. Worth noting is the smooth transition from the norm to the sublime, passing the musical torch back and forth between rapid fire snares and a magnificent voice. It isn't that this combination hasn't been done, but this is a refined take on melodic black metal, bolstered further by an interlude like Frosne Vind, which stands on its own two feet as a stripped down melody. It takes until the third track, the barely four minute Må Du Brænde i Helvede before the true darkness has an opportunity to rear its ugly head. Fierce growls chill you to your very core, while a massive, pummeling kick drum thumps through your speakers. This is the adage of not judging a book by its cover, brought to life. It destroys the mold you've built for it, and grows by the second.

But in destroying that mold, Myrkur doesn't abandon the resources at hand, be it a distinct vocal range, or just the stunning contrast it creates. Harnessed properly, as they are throughout, these are assets few can match. With Latvian Fegurð as a prime example, a collision of bloodied  edges and smoother than silk leads, every individual elements becomes all the more important to the whole. Without being thrust together, their impact would be lessened. It also allows for variations on the formula. Even though Dybt i Skoven may bring to mind The Mamas And The Papas, early on at least, it changes shape continually. At one turn, it is a stripped down, nearly psychedelic romp; at the next, the cutting distortion and machine gun drums drive into new territory entirely. But the sheer beauty of the choir on Nattens Barn speaks for itself. This is the a perfected cross section of the album, a chill inducing masterpiece that highlights every strength behind the name, without a moment of filler. Beautifully brutal, and ruggedly divine. And the low chant of Ulvesangen, as a closer, is as good as it could get.

The evolution of the genre is never a straight line, nor is it a clear path. So in saying that Myrkur has set the standard for what modern black meta could be, that doesn't mean that this is the one and only future of the genre. Instead, this is a sign of many things to come, bringing new melodic wrinkles to the table that the male dominated albums of the past simply couldn't do. But somehow, doing so didn't cost a thing; not one once of heaviness or raw appeal has been lost here. Not one, single, solitary morsel. And that, perhaps, is what is most impressive about the album on the whole. There is a true sense of cohesiveness to both sides, and a balance that is amazingly even handed and strong. It has wide appeal, beyond the normal underground culture.  Mysterious as she may be, this one woman band is about to get very popular, very quickly. Myrkur is just to good to resist.


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