Relapse Records
By Karl Whinnery

Female fronted black metal has delivered the goods that the press hyped DeafHaven for.
Let’s start by getting this out of the way up front; yes, we have a female musician in a black metal project.  *Gasp.*  This can be a lightning rod in music for some stupid reason, both advantageous and horribly misogynistic depending on the situation.

Black metal as a genre can mean many things to many different people.  This release falls more towards the Agalloch side of the spectrum, with dashes of its more aggressive brethren.  Myrkur is the brain child of Danish musician Amalie Bruun.  On the first EP she did everything but drums, so she’s the real deal.  Excellent musician, visionary, great singer, and has talent to spare. This new full length finds members of Mayhem, Nidingr recording various instruments, produced by Garm, and a guest appearance by Christopher Amott of Arch Enemy.

The opening track, “Skogen Skulle Do,” starts with soft chants that let you know you’re in for something different.  It builds up for about forty seconds and kicks in with a heavy, yet folky sound.  It works, and works beautifully.  Myrkur would be a perfect soundscape to a travel documentary through lceland.  Equal parts beauty and harshness.

At the two minute mark the needle moves more towards the full on black metal side, a harsh scream, that deadly and signature black metal guitar sound, and a driving bassline.  Dynamics, dynamics, dynamics.  Strap in, we’re going on an adventure.  It’s a hell of a way to start the CD off – most bands build up and then promptly fall flat on their face as they can’t keep the momentum going.  Not a problem here.

“Haevnen”, the second song starts off harsh as Satan himself, and then alternates between beautiful passages with lush singing contrasting harsh blasts.  Deafhaven, eat your heart out.  “Onde Born” kicks off at a mid-tempo pace with a solid driving drum and bass pattern pushing the song along.  Clean vocals over a driving guitar riff with some great lead work make an excellent combo.

At this point in the CD you realize that Myrkur hasn’t and won’t fall into the typical traps by newer black metal bands, or women in metal that just try too hard to be extreme.  Amalie isn’t afraid to sing, and uses the harsh vocals when they fit, not the “I’m heavy look at me” method you often see (Logan Mader – how did you let that happen in “Once Human?”)  Myrkur is all the better for it, it’s a great release heavy on atmospherics, beauty, aggression, and harshness.  Just how I want this type of black metal to be.

Into Black Metal?  Wanting a place to start?  Go snag this, it’s an adventure and what most bands hope to achieve.  It’s the perfect release that hits all the right places, and you can play it from start to finish without skipping a track.  My personal favorite tracks are, “Skogen Skulle Do,” “Haevnen,” “Onde Born,” “Jeg er Guden, I er Tjenerne,” and “Dybt I Skoven.”  I haven’t heard an atmospheric black metal release this good in years.  Looking for something more aggressive?  Scope out “Skadi” and “Haevnen.” you won’t be disappointed.