Thou shalt not review old records, because it is a waste of your life energy! The 11th Commandment of a review blog. Right? But rulez are there to be broken – at least sometimes. So, let’s have a look at what was, before M graced us with its unholy presence. And yes, we will harken back in time to the beginnings of Myrkur and their self-titled EP. You heard that right. The very same band, who earlier last year – in 2015 – roughed up the Black Metal world real good. And she did that so well, Myrkur ended up at the top spot of RockmusicRaider’s 2015 Top Ten Records.
Myrkur was already a big hype back in 2014!
At that time, nobody quite knew who was behind this supposedly female-led Black Metal act. This was – by the way – a pretty stiff marketing ploy orchestrated by Relapse Records. And in line with many of these elusive Black Metal outfits out there, playing fucking mystery-man hide-and-seek for a living.
But what did I just say? Female-led? A blasphemous idea to many in the genre, despite the fact that the list of female fronts in Black Metal is very important. On top, this girl is trying something (almost) new, marrying the ethereal and folksy with Black Metal. So, two elements came together – female and an unknown new style. Not the usual lo-fi slugfest that many Black Metal bands celebrate, let alone the church burning beginnings of the genre in Scandinavia.
Then slowly the knowledge that this was someone called Amalie Bruun better known for her outfit Ex Cops dawned on the community. A pop band, for fuck’s sake, not something associated with #metal – ever. Another blasphemous idea! So, in consequence, the fact that this was not a male-led outfit and the lead had no background in #metal AND sported somewhat of a new style drove many (male) metallers out of their wits.
Still today in 2016 Myrkur gets threats of all kinds, mainly for the same two reasons: First, it’s a girl and second, the ethereally delivered Black Metal style is just unthinkable. An oxymoron of sorts. No pounding each other into the dust with spiked fists? Not possible. Instead you are getting some sort of Enya-esque chanting, mixed with dissonance, tremolo picking and crusty riffs.
Some real Black Metal in the background to spice things up?
You will understand once starting to listen. The airy-fairy, pot-laden chanting is very prevalent in the first two tracks. Apart from a few metal shards, there is not much around. Yet. It will take the band until Må Du Brænde I Helvende to get to some sort of recognisable Black Metal style. Latvian Ferguð cements the direction firmly.
That said, a certain lack of focus haunts this record. This is probably THE main negative on this EP. In other words, the foundations of Myrkur as we will get to know it later are definitely there. But at that time, their tune was just some sort of uncut diamond, still bloody from its transaction during trading. Adding insult to injury, her style skates dangerously close to Ulver, back when they were still considered Black Metal. No wonder some critics weren’t quite sure where this all was heading.
Now, in the meantime we know that the follow-on record M established the perfect step up in oomph and technique. Whereas this first EP must be classified as some sort of a warm-up act. In other words, Amalie’s final style is already kind of there, but not quite worked out yet. You will have to wait until Nattens Barn to really get a taste of some of the Black Metal imbibed meatiness coming later.
And she pulled off her magic trick already this first time: About halfway through the short 24 minutes of airtime, there is this primeval sense of unease settling in. The whole tune kind of getting more threatening and very dark. By Loki, Bruun has this knack to create these pitch-black atmospheres that will get to you after a while. And this is already manifest in the album art: Girl of light on top, something very dark underneath. I like it.
In conclusion: Trepidation reigneth in the metalsphere?
Not quite. A great many metalheads hoped that Myrkur would just blow up and evaporate into space. But it did not, of course. On the contrary, Amalie continued with the chosen path and large parts of Black Metal fans joined her. In addition and as the lore says: An EP should be an indicator of things to come. And this is indeed very true with this short blurb.
The EP really feels like uncharted territory, tracks kind of helter-skelter added to the list. A skeleton of sorts, still waiting for the flesh to grow on its skinny and disjointed frame. Even if there seems to be a lack of cohesion, weaks spots and outright mistakes, the overall gaggle of songs still deliver over-average. And it exudes this distinct flavor that renders the band very alluring.
Myrkur set the tone for the future sound through a series of – at times – almost unhinged tracks only hinting at Black Metal. But looking at it as a whole, it serves as the perfect precursor to the next album we now know will follow.