Label: Relapse Records
Genre: Black Metal / Folk Metal
Release Date: 15th September, 2017
Black Metal is a genre that has always caused controversy. The ideologies and subject matter have been pulled apart and scrutinised countless times for their sometimes volatile and polarizing nature. Add in to this the numerous occurrences of strange and often terrifying behaviour amongst the scene that has made it’s way into the headlines over the years such as the suicide of Per ‘Dead’ Ohlin in 1991, followed by the murder of Øystein ‘Euronymous’ Aarseth at the hands of Varg Vikernes in 1993 along with the numerous cases of church burnings across the it’s founding nation of Norway in the early to mid 90s. The music, however I would say is among the few types of metal that has yet to stray too far away from the original blueprints and remains very true to sound that has defined it from the outset. It is apparent in recent times that bands are starting to reach out to other influences in order to create a new beast entirely and with bands such as Behemoth conquering rock and metal charts all over the world with simply awe inspiring 2014 album ‘The Satanist’ and Emperor’s creative mastermind Vegard ‘Ishahn’ Tvetian creating some wonderfully diverse and exciting solo albums over the past decade the floor has never been more open for Black Metal bands with a different take on the genre to create something truly unique and bring it forth unto the unsuspecting public.
Enter Myrkur. The brainchild of the hugely talented Danish multi-instrumentalist Amalie Bruun who has taken full control of her vision to create a fantastically creative and beautifully evil take on the Black Metal style. ‘Mareridt’ marks the second full length effort of this particular embodiment of the talented musician and the main goal appears to be that everything appears in a much grander and finely tuned.
The album opens with the title track ‘Mareridt’. The soft, atmospheric keys create the kind of epic soundscape that you would hear on a high-budget cinematic production (seriously, close your eyes and think of the opening scene of ‘Braveheart’ or the television series ‘Vikings’). The wonderfully grand backdrop gives the perfect foundation for Bruun to display her impressive vocal range in a wash of reverb and other echoing effects. However, the whole time you are being swept away in this relaxing song you will find out that you have to remind yourself that this is the foreword to a Black Metal album. If this is was any concern of yours then rest easy, it doesn’t last long…
The next track ‘Måneblôt’ promptly kicks into gear and pulls you in to a ferocious vortex of blast beats, tremolo riffing and shrill screams that sound vaguely reminiscent of a wounded banshee that wouldn’t be out of place on an Emperor album circa ‘In The Nightside Eclipse’. The use of contrast here is superb as the strategically placed stringed instruments and haunting vocal melodies intertwine with the ferociously lo-fi guitars and thunderous drum beats to startling effect. In short, this track ticks all of the boxes for your average Black Metal fan whilst adding in some flavour for the average Metalhead that wants a little taste of something different.
The fourth song on the album is ‘Crown’ which begins with an eerie selection of stringed instruments that build an atmosphere that can sweep away the listener at ease. As the song progresses the layers of wonderful enchanting vocals create a sense of serenity that can only be created by someone with a set of vocal chords as impressive as Bruun’s. By contrast the next track is much more metallic in its approach. The standard Black Metal blasting drum patterns laid the foundation for the tremolo guitars to thrash over the top of like a high powered buzz saw over the top. The difference this time is that there is a noticeable addition of melody in the guitar work on this song which gives of a much grander overall sound somewhat reminiscent of the Norwegian monolithic band Dimmu Borgir. My only complain about this track is that when Amalie shifts from her beautiful siren song into her shrill, screamed vocals there has been so much distortion and other effects added that the power is sucked from them entirely and instead it is replaced with an almost whispered delivery.
The next track that really caught my eye ‘Ulvinde’ was used as the spearhead when promoting the album having been accompanied with a video and a notable presence via all of the usual media outlets. This song uses the tremolo guitars and blast beats again to create a wall of sound that would usually be intimidating to most listeners. However, once again the contrasting beauty in the more melodic tones from Bruun creates a fantastic contrast once again with the scathing soundscape that they resound in. There are brief moments of true Black Metal in and amongst this mutation of the genre that are truly brilliant and one of those is when the track takes an even more sinister, dark turn. The high pitched screams resonate and remind you of earlier Black metal pioneers such as Darkthrone and Satyricon with the thunderous drumming and all out Thrash Metal assault of the guitars. However, these parts are too few and far apart on this release.
Overall I would say that this is an excellent release that shows plenty of promise. The main criticism I have is that this album is packaged and promoted as a Black Metal release when in reality the moments of true Black Metal are very sparse indeed. This does not mean that the music is poor by any stretch of the imagination, but if you are a purist of this particular genre then unfortunately this is not going to tick all of your boxes. However, if you are prepared to open your mind and take in the rich pallet of different musical ingredients on this album then I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
A solid release that falls ever so slightly short of greatness.
3. The Serpent
6. De Tre Piker
7. Funeral (Feat. Chelsea Wolfe)
Total Playing Time: 38:13