Myrkur’s M is for Magnificent, Not Metal
This one’s a toughie. Myrkur has been touted – and in its short lifespan, celebrated, hyped and hated on – for being a one-woman black metal project powered by a pretty slip of a Dane who found herself making music Stateside. The intent of songwriter and primary instrumentalist, Amalie Bruun, appears to be finding an outlet for her expressions of both an icy second-wave darkness and a sweeping inner beauty, neither of which is she willing to relinquish in service of the other. Her personal vision appears to have made Myrkur a lodestone for Next-Big-Thing enthusiasts (do we still call them hipsters?) and an easy target for internet buzzkillers.
But how does all this relate to the music?
As much as this album is an idiosyncratic creation, the way any listener relates to it will also be highly personalized. That may seem like a bullshit über-duh cop-out, but let’s put it this way: just about anyone wasting time on a metal-centric website is predisposed to dig the satisfying savagery of Revocation or Skeletonwitch, and we can tweak descriptors for bands like Ahab or Anaal Nathrakh or Antigama to catch the interest of the doom lovers, the blackened misanthropes or the grind freaks. But how do we tap into the segment of our readership prepared to accept an album gleaming with crystalline soprano choral vocals, pulsing with enigmatic drones and dripping in delicate piano melodies? Oh, and blasting, throbbing and screeching with all the trappings of pastoral Nordic black metal? How do we paint all this as a package that demands your support?
We can’t. Truthfully, M isn’t really a metal record… in fact, it’s probably even less metal than those albums you’re thinking of by bands (Between the Buried and Me, Alcest and Cynic come to mind) who subsumed metal as a kind of stylistic launching point and then endlessly tinkered with it. It’s certainly no close cousin to a project like Anguished, a much more raw one-woman (truly) black metal creation that is also worth some of your eternally charred soul.
M seems to share kinship with albums by Obsequiae, in that it seems to seat itself in a very medieval framework that has, incidentally, plugged in to modern approaches for realizing that music. It’s exactly this quality of unpretentious inclusiveness and quirky songcraft that turns M from a curiosity into an album worth our time and attention. The first couple spins through M give an idea of the rhythm of heaviness-vs-not that Myrkur engages, but after a few more the endearing oddities start sticking out, and that’s when the true enjoyment begins.
I love this record, but I mostly love it for its unmetal qualities. I love the way “Skøgen Skulle Dø” shudders through its final 90 seconds and dies on some queerly reverbed vocal cooing. I love how metal and melody mix in “Onde Børn” before it all shatters in a swell of jittery strings. I love the breathy cascade of voices on “Vølvens Spådom” and how the song melds with “Jeg er Guden, I er Tjenerne” to become a taut, tense walk through some of the album’s darkest moments. I love the barely audible ticks in “Nordlys” and “Norn” that betray the human behind the piano. I love that Chris Amott (apparently) spiced up “Mordet” and injected the guitars with an intensity that could match Myrkur’s rage. I love that I mishear “Dybt i Skoven” as “dirty snowman” and how I’m totally okay with the way that fits the nature of the album. I love that, at 37 minutes, it’s easy to snag a listen or two throughout the day without having to devote an afternoon to decoding it.
Will you love M? I couldn’t possibly guess. But it would be a tragedy to ignore it.