Review Summary: If you don't know what this sounds like by simply looking at the album cover then I don't know what to tell you.
Myrkgrav (Engl: Dark Grave) is a solo project by Norwegian musician Lars Jensen. A bit light to be considered black metal, but also a tad heavy to be considered traditional folk metal, I prefer Wikipedia's classification of the band as "blackened folk metal". To date, when barring a demo, a split, an EP, and a compilation, Myrkgrav has one studio album, Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning
(or Trollish Woods, Wraiths and Coalburning
), which was released in 2006. As could be deduced by the album title as well as the disclosure of genre, Trollskau
is a lyrical adventure through local Norwegian history and folklore, guided with bold and triumphant songwriting.
Much of Trollskau
follows the same basic formulas, but there is always enough variation to tell each track apart. The guitar riffs, which always flow at a medium-fast tempo, forgo technicality in favor of stable simplicity, usually rooted in familiar folk black metal chord progressions. The drumming has a "marching" feel to it, i.e. when the kick drum isn't pummeling a full 6/8 (or perhaps multiple triplet) pattern, there is almost always an eighth note before each cymbal and snare hit. Keyboards appear on most tracks, usually to add a nice extra layer of volume to chord progressions when the lead guitar breaks off for a solo or otherwise. I was unable to procure a list of all instruments used on the album (if any were even used besides the standard ones), but there doesn't seem to be any major use of regional folk instruments which are common in the genre (sorry jaw harp fans). The use of these instruments was not necessary though, as Jensen did an excellent job of conveying the mental imagery of his Norwegian mythological tales simply through his compositions.
The lyrics to Trollskau
are written entirely in Norwegian, which bums me out a little as solely an English speaker since it prohibits me from engaging with them while listening. Still, Jensen provides such a stellar vocal performance in his primary language and local dialect that I wouldn't desire for him to have performed the vocals in any other way. The ratio of which he sings and screams is about 50/50, with his choice in delivery always matching the current intensity of the song. His tenor singing often consists of multiple layers of harmony that create very memorable, epic-sounding choruses and chants. His harsh vocals range from middle to high pitched, but are not in any way abrasive. In fact, his articulation is so clear that I'm sure I'd be able to comprehend most of what he is screaming if I could understand his language.
There are two tracks at the end of Trollskau
, De To Spellemen
, that I feel stand apart from the others and are immediately memorable. De To Spellemen
consists of one stanza after another of infectiously catchy, rhyming verses, sung overtop of a keyboard-led beat with non-syllabic vocal harmonies filling up the background. Endetoner
, the final track, is a short instrumental that features the keyboard and lead guitar working together to create some beautiful concluding melodies that end the album on an uplifting note. The placement of these two tracks at the end of Trollskau
between them) dispels any possibility of the album seeming monotonous or overbearing.
is an impressive feat of blackened folk metal that combines heaviness and melody in a seamless fashion. With an overall runtime of 44 minutes and with no tracks that breach the six-minute mark, neither the album as a whole nor any individual tracks overstay their welcome, which can sometimes be an issue in both folk and black metal. Trollskau
is tremendously accessible, and is an album I would highly encourage any metal fan, no matter what subgenres they favor, to listen to.