What does Myrkur sound like?
A mixture of Nordic folk, black metal and all kinds of post rock in between.
The review of Myrkur – Spine
Traditionally artists stick to certain genres but here at Higher Plain Music, we like to showcase artists that blur the lines. Myrkur has been doing this for years. The Danish artist meshes traditional Nordic folk with black metal, often hard switching between them. On her new album ‘Spine’, the two sides of her music have merged closer into one synthesis than ever before.
This album is all about exploring what it means to be a mother and perhaps that subconsciously pulled Myrkur into a sonic merger. The opening track sounds like it’s lifted directly from a Pagan folk album. ‘Bålfærd’ is a beautiful choral and traditional folk piece that sees Myrkur (Amalie Brunn) layer her vocals like an ethereal spirit. It paints a cinematic landscape for the bigger metal tracks to take over.
‘Like Humans’ moves from post rock to a massive rush of black metal with an uplifting tone to it. The production and instrumentation levels catch you off guard on the first listen. The metal grizzled guitars are hollowed out and whilst they surge, they largely never take over. They are more like guitar white noise and often mesh with dramatic snare drum machines that run at speed. The synths are louder than the standard guitars and the vocals drench the synths. It is an odd setup but you get used to it over time. After the dramatic ‘Like Humans’, ‘Mothlike’ brings in an 80s synthwave edge to the metal. Disco Metal I hear you ask? Why, yes! This catchy tune does place the guitars front and centre with an excellent solo as the outro and even gives us some screaming too. All is good in the world of metal, whilst showcasing Myrkurs’ new electronica side.
Dark gothic ballad ‘My Blood Is Gold’ is a chamber piano, string and atmospheric synth bass track. Here Myrkur’s voice is as dynamic as the arrangement. Agnes Obel: Demon Encounter was my first thought and it hasn’t changed since. It shows just how diverse the album is too and everything the album does is showcased in the title track. Dramatic tom drums ring out over taut metal guitar tremolos and ethereal vocals. The ability to transition from ghostly femininity to visceral primal attack is superb. This is one of the most epic sounding productions I’ve heard in 2023.
Those worried about the calmer direction of the album will delight in ‘Valkriernes Sang’. This is a boss rush metal track with percussion running at a crazy speed. It’s as if the drummer is running at 3x speed to the rest of the track but it then allows the siren vocals and guitar fuzz to glide over it gracefully. Well, until we get the guttural primal screams for the bridge anyway! ‘Blazing Sky’ keeps the metal heavy with a sludgy riff, heavy drums and serpentine vocals that curl around the psychedelic notes of the guitar. It is as close to a Chelsea Wolfe sounding track as Myrkur gets emotionally and sonically. I think if you like one, you’d like the other – although they are very different artists.
Bringing in some dark waltzing folk for ‘Devil in the Detail’, we get a brooding march from symphonic verses to metal grinding choruses. This track is the most orchestral of the album and whilst musically it sounds taut, lyrically it continues an optimistic outlook on life. Across the album, Myrkur reflects on how being a mother has made her feel more human and less critical of herself. It’s an album of love for her child but also carries plenty of messages of love for herself too. That probably allows her to close the album with the dreamy acoustic folk track ‘Menneskebarn’. This ethereal folk ballad seems to see new joy in the world and seeing her little one taking part in it.
The shifting perspectives of motherhood, Scandinavian mythology and self-love make this a deceptively uplifting and joyous album. If you listened to the iconoclastic eruptions of black metal doom without hearing the lyrics, you’d maybe take a different viewpoint. This is up there with Myrkur’s best work and it’s certainly her most diverse. It’ll take a listen or two to attune your ears to ears to the unusual volume of different instrumentation compared to standard music production, but after that, you’ll be off and away. Nothing soothes and rages simultaneously quite like ‘Spine’. A stand-out album in 2023.
Recommended track: Mothlike
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