Amalie Bruun and her alma mater Myrkur are on the loose again. I can already hear the haters’ black tongues wagging away at her metal credentials. “Pop girlie gone Black Metal has no reason to exist…” – and so on and so forth.
Nonetheless, she does exist and gains maturity, as her endeavor soars along these icy, black and dreary landscapes.
She started off with a first self-titled EP that already sent some mighty shock waves all about the metal planet. M – the debut full length album – raised expectations for future offerings big time. And it is against this winner of the 2015 Top 10 Records that Mareridt measures against. A mighty task as always, and I wonder if the record will cut it.
To add insult to injury, Myrkur faces this dangerous booby trap of the dreaded sophomore full length album. Many bands shipwrecked badly on that cliff after a stellar first offering. In the end, it is expectations – imagined or real – that drive fan acceptance. But also a somewhat cloudy and subjective idea of what ‘improvements’ consist of. To that point, most bands feel the urge for dramatic change at some time. Lest all things will be lost and the audience will throw them to the wolves. Right?
And Mareridt is no different.
Gone is the somewhat unhinged menace, this not-so-subtle dissonance that kept us on edge. And in comes something that is more Folk Metal than anything else. Short and molten blurbs of Black Metal still report present, though their performance is strangely subdued. So, you will still get an inkling of the gritty, tasty Black Metal stew we enjoyed before.
Not much more, though.
As the record moves on, Myrkur continues to sprinkle these disturbing Black Metal blurbs in the midst of the more atmospheric offerings. Like Ulvinde, for example.
For the first three tracks or so things still look pretty Myrkur-esque. And truly, Mareridt – the title song – takes off with a tune seemingly coming from a haunted, empty church. Directly followed by the disturbing Måneblôt. And THAT is some excellent, sturdy fare, right out of nightmare’s little songbook. The Serpent still gets okay signals. Not more, but for sure no less neither.
Once the tracklist progresses, the record descends into a wildly meandering mess of folk, pseudo-pop – with some metal added on top like so much Parmesan. And the word unhinged gets a new meaning: What in the almighty hell does this low-tempo pseudo pop song called Crown do on this tracklist? By the Nailed God, I am not sure where this one actually came from.
From then on it looks like Myrkur somehow lost the compass to nowhere they used before. Now Bruun starts to sound like a darker version of the esoteric record Darkher produced earlier.
Add a ladle of Cyclocosmia to this and the tune will about be a match. Gone is this uneasy connection to early Ulver that was so prevalent on the former two records. And – same as with Darkher – I started to wonder what this record was doing on the RMR blog.
Still and all, the album extends a strange pull. Something disturbing hides underneath the surface of this metal Loch Ness. You’ll start to look for the monster you don’t quite see. But you know (or you think you know), it is there.
To really appreciate the record, you need to let loose of genres. Of expectations and foregone conclusions. This is Amalie Bruun in full creative mode, ready to meet her own demons. And this sets Myrkur on a course into uncharted territory – and takes the trusty listener with her. Because even the aforementioned pop blurb darkly menaces your subconscious in weird ways.
And indeed, things look different from that angle.
All tracks are meticulously crafted and tell a story. Taken together, the record projects carefully contained chaos. Myrkur‘s very own nightmare – or relief depending on how you look at things. Same as the newest of Cradle of Filth does not resemble Black Metal much anymore (or not at all), Mareridt is a wild medley of styles and flavors.
And this totally changes the perception of this album. Never fear, you will still get enough proper Black Metal – Myrkur style – to get your fill. Sprinkled about like the breadcrumbs in Hansel and Gretel that the black birds of doom will devour. But all of that gets mixed into atmospherics, ambient interludes, folk and – ugghh – some pop. Garnished on a gray platter of dissonant disturbances.
In the end, Amalie Bruun and her outfit Myrkur are always good for a surprise. And as you know full well, surprises can be good – or bad. With Mareridt (speak nightmare) it took me a few listens until I understood what we have here. Not to embark on a war of attrition, but to take in all these elements subtly added to a record that – at first – I gathered was not worth the fans’ light of day.
Amalie Bruun pretty much stepped away from her established style and threw the compass away. And in the process created an album that is much more honest and reflective of her true style and writing chops than any other album before.
The beauty and the grey monster of the underworld meet in a dreary landscape of fifty shades of black. Cannot be? Black is black? Don’t be so sure. Many things are possible in the haunted, misty lands Myrkur inhabits.
Ed’s note: The record made it onto the Intermittent Digest – Tome VI edition. Congrats.