The snow-covered forests of black metal have always held a certain mystique about them; the genre’s extreme nature certainly isn’t for everyone, and that has afforded bands like DIMMU BORGIR and EMPEROR to remain somewhat under the radar despite their legacy and influence on the scene in general. In recent years, however, bands like OATHBREAKER have opened up the genre to a wider audience and lit a couple of torches for people to follow into the depths of the trees. MYRKUR, the one-woman project of Amalie Brunn, is another example of this – her debut album M scored acclaim from all corners of the metal world as it showcased her ability to branch out her own brand of black metal into gothic and ambience with complete control and unerring brilliance. Two years later and she’s back, with sophomore album Mareridt (the Danish for ‘Nightmare’), released on Friday via Relapse Records.
Coming into an album like this is never easy because MYRKUR is one of those artists where absolutely nothing can be expected, and this is made all the more apparent by the opening two tracks. The title track is an overall mellow affair that combines strings and Brunn’s delicate vocals with the background noises of an ongoing storm, the follow up, Måneblôt, is a raw and desolate black metal assault which sends you into another plane of reality entirely. Nevertheless, they are both excellent compositions and set the tone for what is a quite sumptuous album that pushes the boundaries of extreme music to places it’s never been before. At times, MYRKUR sounds like ENYA fronting IMMORTAL as Brunn’s ethereal voice soars across the record whilst the chaotic sound of shredding guitars and fast drums rattle underneath. There’s a touch of battle metal involved with Elleskudt and Ulvinde (She-Wolf) is much more downtrodden and crushing, but done in such a way that you can’t help but smile as you slip into a void of sheer brilliance.
At others, Mareridt becomes one of the most beautiful sounds known to the human ear, which is easily the best way to describe the two stand-out tracks on here – the first, Crown, is piano led with elements of ambience and darkwave thrown in to emphasise and enhance, with Brunn yet again staking her claim for the most gorgeous voice in metal right now with an astounding performance that’s otherworldly in every respect, and on Funeral she’s joined by Chelsea Wolfe for a masterful duet as two angelic voices combine with mournful, low guitar tones and bring to the fore a spectacle of doom perfection. Most frightening of all is the closing track Børnehjem, or ‘Orphanage’, which is little more than a choir of chilling children’s voices near enough chanting in English, leaving you so far out of your comfort zone that you’ll be running marathons just to get back in it.
There is nothing in this world that comes close to sounding anything like MYRKUR, and it’s highly doubtful there ever will be. This is a richly textured, dynamic, monolith of a record that will bowl over all who listen to it for years to come and has laid the foundations for Amalie Brunn to become a name on the lips of every single person in the metal scene. Forget Album of the Year contender – this is going to be up for Album of the Decade.
Mareridt is set for release on September 15th via Relapse Records.
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