There is a scene early on in the intellectually gripping Scandi Noir drama Midnight Sun in which a woman sits across from a breathtakingly stark landscape and sings a sorrowful lament in her native Sami tongue.
I was reminded of this by the opening poignant passage from Myrkur’s emotive new album Mareridt. The title track has that same powerful pull that resonates on so many emotive levels, even if the native tongue itself remains a beautiful and bewitching out of touch mystery.
It’s as though the extraordinary Danish singer is exploring the rhythmic runes in a wonderfully mesmerizing manner. But Myrkur being Myrkur means that there is more than one side to this particular coin.
The following ‘Måneblôt’ is an altogether feistier piece in which Myrkur’s blackened blood surfaces for the first time with hellish cries joined by some blistering riffage interspersed with brief moments of Scandi solace.
The renowned Danish chanteuse – real name Amalie Bruun – is one of the most inspiring solo performers around and one who somehow manages to sublimely marry soft moving harmonies with visceral black aural assaults as assuredly as a Michelin-rated chef preparing a feast for a king.
Looks are deceptive and anyone foolish enough to believe that Myrkur is all puffed up cushions and fluffy kittens should think again when realising that the album title itself translates as ‘Nightmare’.
Mareridt is Myrkur’s latest studio album and much of what lies within its carefully carved contours is drawn from traditional Nordic folk fare, expertly enhanced by the shaman drums which of course the mercurial Myrkur plays herself, as indeed she does all the instruments on this album.
The classically trained multi-instrumentalist even manages to master the little known nyckelharpa (an ancient Swedish key harp) and Kulning (an ancient Scandinavian herding call).
‘The Serpent’, as its title suggests, sees Myrkur twist and turn in a number of different directions all of which seem to draw you in under her meltingly melodic spell. On ‘Elleskudt’ the vocals again are delicate but this time the accompanying aural swirls are bolder and cut deeper as they latch onto darker parts of the brain.
The native folk influence on this album is within reach on most songs but surfaces most notably on the engagingly innocent and simplistic ‘De Tre Piker’ – the album’s third single – on which she marries her dissonant delivery with the use of a nyckelharpa (an ancient Swedish key harp) further enhanced with shaman drums and guitar.
Although very much her own work, Myrkur is not entirely unaccompanied across these 11 tracks, finding a soulmate to harmonise with in the acclaimed American singer Chelsea Wolfe on the dark and depressive ‘Funeral’.
On Mareridt Myrkur sings in a number of languages and reveals her musical agility and dexterity by at times turning to a violin, mandola, folk drums and kulning (an ancient Scandinavian herding call). The arrangements hold your attention throughout and while the tracks flow naturally like water in a stream occasional jagged edges surface such as the scorched vocal barks that poke their head above the parapet on ‘Ulvinde’.
By Myrkur’s own sultry standards the instrumental ‘Kætteren’ is a surprisingly jaunty piece, almost skipping along with a Gaelic jig in its step. However, this sprightly composition soon gives way to the angst-ridden album closer ‘Børnehjem,’ a brief but brutally disturbing track in in which children’s voices speak in English of grotesque acts that brings Mareridt to a startling and disturbing close.
When her debut album M was released to a largely unsuspecting public two years ago, some luddites questioned Myrkur’s credentials and claims to a place within the black metal family. However, with Ulver’s Kristoffer Rygg producing M – not to mention the presence of Teloch of Mayhem on guitars and Øyvind Myrvoll of Nidingr and Dodheimsgard on drums – the black metal influence is all pervasive and harder to dislodge than a blood-sucking leech.
On Mareridt Myrkur has worked with a new producer in Randall Dunn, but again the black metal credentials are endorsed by Dunn’s association with Wolves In The Throne Room. Myrkur has the agility and ability to open doors and windows in your brain that you didn’t even know you had within you. All you need to do is to have the courage to open them and let Myrkur in. You will not be disappointed.
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