I’m always up for new underground black metal, so I said “Sure, why not,” to Myrkur’s new EP without really knowing what I was getting into. I’m really glad I did; I love this self-titled release for a number of reasons.
Myrkur, which means “darkness” in Icelandic according to Encylopedia Metallum, utilizes minimalist guitar and layered vocals to create a different image of “darkness” than expected from modern black metal. For me, the music (for instance, in “Frosne Vind”)feels like the kind of darkness associated with midwinter nights, when the birds have all retreated to their homes and the only sound is the crystal plink of the snow falling, amplified by the strange dampening of sound that comes with snowfall.
Of course, this pretty atmospheric black metal does not come at the expense of good old-fashioned blast beats and heavy distortion. On “Må Du Brænde i Helvede”, vocalist Myrkur shows off her best screaming chops to the accompaniment of blackened abrasion.
“Dybt I Skoven” is perhaps the most surprising song on the EP, as the harmonics in the chords are completely unexpected. The result is a melody that feels almost as though it is based on the pentatonic scale. While the entire album is a gorgeous meditation on some of the less explored aspects of the genre, “Dybt I Skoven” is perhaps the most unconventional.
The production on this release is very fitting – clean and crisp, it really allows for the nuances in the vocals to shine through. Likewise, the drums in the blast beats are very sharp sounding, and the blurring of the notes in the guitar (she really nailed the traditional Mayhem riff) is fast enough in the tremolo sections and the rest of the guitar/bass sounds distorted enough that the production does not lack grittiness. Noticing the sharp contrasts of sounds helps to emphasize the mastery involved in the mixing of this thing.
I really like the cover art for this self-titled release, as the jagged lines contrast sharply with the soft curls and rounded face of the woman pictured. Considering the runic logo, sharp lines seem to cut through the entire image. The icy colors of white, blue, and greyish black tie the whole package together nicely by seemingly commenting on the coldness and the tension of the clean vocals with harsh distortion that permeates the album.
Not surprisingly, considering my love of minimalist black metal, I really enjoyed Myrkur’s debut – The vocals are haunting and beautiful, and the guitars are more than distorted and messy sounding enough to charm old school die-hards. Myrkur is a prime example of why I love black metal – the myriad different ways in which the genre confronts common themes and imagery, evident in music both harsh and soothing, and sometimes both at once.