Review Summary: Op under Fjeldet toner en Lur
At its most respectful, the amount of whining that Myrkur’s debut was welcomed with was hilariously exaggerated but at its worst was straight up spiteful. Accused of delving into a scene she had no business interfering with, Amalie Bruun didn’t exactly offer black metal a new aesthetic with 2015’s credible “M”
, however, along with her open charisma, the album offered plenty of intriguing sharp bends and abrupt swerves within the songs to recognise her as an artist capable of becoming something far better than she currently was.
Myrkur resides in a grey area. In one hand, she paints the typical bleak features of Norwegian Black metal into the landscape of her sophomore album, “Mareridt”
. Sewn together by textures of horns, strings and bleak, oceanic waves of tremolo guitar shrouded in lo-fi production, “Elleskudt” and “Måneblôt” projects feelings of ominousness and grim triumph. On the other hand, she contrasts these heavier aspects with pearly atmospheric singing, gentle melodies and subtly climactic vocal harmonies throughout the album. This candescent singing is used most prominently in the opening title track where she announces her presence by way of kulning- a Scandinavian herding call, high-pitched and resonant amongst samples of storms and rainfall. When Myrkur combines these two presences together, the outcome is a concoction of various emotions battling against one another in a malleable atmosphere that only she can command. Ice and Fire. Sharp and Soft. Light and Darkness. Somewhere between all these opposing definitions is where Myrkur chooses to dwell.
From the two-toned artwork, the rustic and modern instruments played alongside each other and the nightmarish concept of the album, there is an omnipresent expression of conflict captured in every part of “Mareridt”
. The core distinction in this lies within the varying moods that each song conveys. Sonically, the leaps between Amalie’s rasping shrieks and her harmonious serenades are dramatically less erratic and coarsely edited than they were on “M”
. Instead, the blood-curdling snarls arrive more naturally and purposefully. Artistically, in songs such as “Ulvinde” and “Gladiatrix”, where the heavenly wails twist into witchlike snarls and the waving guitars contort into a sinister tone, these irregular shifts in moods perfectly reflects the lucid intermittency and morphing imagery of nightmares, of which the album is conceptually based on; another way in which Myrkur simultaneously contrasts two opposing features to positive effect.
Aside from the ridiculous delivery of the spoken-word track (given the seriousness of her narrative) in “Børnehjem”, some songs are more straightforward in character and focus on nothing more than enveloping you in their atmospheric embraces. Featuring a sly, sinuous stoner riff, “The Serpent” concentrates on Myrkur’s dark side while her clean vocals express a bewitching attitude. Alongside her Nyckelharpa and simplistic piano chords, “Crown” isolates Amalie’s beautiful vocals, carefully exposing her origins as an indie pop singer, whereas “Funeral” lies in between the intensities of these two former tracks. Here, Chelsea Wolfe lends her own gothic sensibility and together she and Amalie conjure a dark climax of delirious incantations spiralling over the smoky basslines.
A statement of intent and a clarion call to push its genre’s boundaries further than ever, “Mareridt”
is an immersive record and nontraditional in its sound and performance. Many will continue to believe Myrkur is simply dreary; others may find themselves intrigued by her unique approach. Perhaps this album is intended to diversify? Freedom, innovation, controversy and diversification are the foundations that black metal and extreme metal is built upon, and in retrospect, this album and the artist behind it encapsulates everything about the genre.