Review Summary: Darkness meets light.
Change can be scary. One look at the world current state of affairs puts enough weight in that statement to dispel any other contextual motif for the casual reader to engage with. For Myrkur’s mastermind, Amalie Bruun, the move away from the act’s normal contemporary black metal soundscapes has caused a fair amount of discussion among fans and critics alike. Since releasing the project’s debut full-length, M
back in 2015, Myrkur has been met by both criticism and praise. It’s been pointed out that black metal is largely “a men's field”. Despite the ability for the rest of the world to move forward from history’s bigotry (because… let’s face it, music is no longer [read: never] a version of a 1950’s Good House Wife’s Guide
), there are those who believe that shrieked vocals, blast beats and tremolo picking belong to a dominion of hooded, corpse painted, beard toting jackals… with Satan in their hearts and their cojones jammed into tight leather pants. But if you put these rather narrow-minded discriminatory feelings aside; Mykur’s brand of black metal (including the sophomore, Mareridt
) isn’t that different from the modern scene that surrounds it. But, (if I can) I’d like to move on from what black metal musicians are “supposed” to have between their legs and move onto the topic on hand.
Right. Moving forward. From the black metal aspirations of Amalie Bruun is a bold statement of sorts, but the pure lo-fi folk aesthetics of Folksnage
are more welcome than the stereotypical black metal landscapes that predate it. But the detachment in styles is abrupt for listeners, especially those used to the “more male” dominated genre the music comes from. For Folksnage
is a folk record, without the black metal stereotypes and without the black and white corpse paint. Instead, Myrkur’s 2020 piece draws from a primitive version of Nordic dark folk, and in terms of sheer quality - is all the better for it. That’s not to dismiss this band’s previous efforts, but Folksnage
is an album looking forward, by humbly looking back.
At a first glance (or listen of you will) Folksnage
is a raw display of musical simplicity. Take a look at the album cover while you listen to “Ella”. Somber vocals dance well above light percussion and simple notes. The largely minor instrumentation feeds off Bruun’s tasteful vocal lines as any measure of simple chanting couples with light chordal strings. “Ella” instantly shifts the act’s sounds away from the debut and the sophomore and while the change itself is abrupt, the music is as far from jarring as can be expected for a smooth folk effort - matching the simple hills and lone woman knitting away on the cover. At times Folksnage
is a cinematic reprieve, tailor made for an absent minded “singing in the hills” reprieve from normal life. The following, “Fager som en Ros” quickly takes the album’s folkened motif into a minor jig and slightly quicker tempos, but it’s not until the likes of “Leaves of Yggdrasil” does the album self-validate. It’s here that Myrkur’s stylistic changes from that of a typical black metal act transform into musical evolution of sorts and telling a story in the process.
It’s pretty clear that Folksnage
is a minimalist listen with some great moments that carry the listener from start to finish. But the minimalism shown here doesn’t add much to the grand scheme of Myrkur’s newest music. In short, some places feel too plain and lack the atmospheric ‘lushness’ to hold one motif to a very similar next. It’s clear that Brunn’s vocal prowess carries these songs, and in turn the album almost alone, with very little added from the sparse minimalist instrumental efforts that run well underneath the lyricism and chants. The powerful vocals that pierce “Tor i Helheim” stand above the norms of what Myrkur has promoted thus far. Billowing atmospherics and sensual native lyricism one could easily imagine the track entwined in a Howard Shore soundtrack (album closer “Vinter” particularly comes to mind here), or any other cinematic prose overlooking mountains, plains or cold snow fields. It’s a theme that continues well into the album’s latter half. Because of this the listener will learn to forgive the occasional blending of some of the record’s tracks, but will still suffer the occasional mild cases of ‘tuning out’ as Folksnage
carries on with its forty-seven minute run-time.
Taking folklore and nostalgic layering to songwriting extremes, Folksnage
is an album of unexpected triumphs. Myrkur may not have dropped the black metal soundscapes permanently, but the reprieve on this record is well thought out and a welcome break from some of the mediocrity plaguing the more extreme genres at this stage. Myrkur’s sound evolution at this stage is less scary and more optimistic than current climatic issues, but the core of what’s here doesn’t transcend the frailty of civilisation. Instead, Myrkur leans on her folk-y roots and delivers an album worthy of multiple repeats.