Myrkur - Spine

Myrkur – Spine

Myrkur (aka Amalie Bruun) is an interesting character. With her first two full length albums, M and Mareridt, she invented her own sub-genre of black metal, combining it with Danish folk to produce something unique. Indeed, Mareridt (‘Nightmare’) from 2017 was like an audio exorcism of the effects of sleep paralysis she was suffering from at the time, and it was an uncompromising listen. The 2020 follow-up, Folksange, was a return to her pure Danish folk roots and, in comparison, an oasis of calm after the coruscating terrors of Mareridt. So where to next?

Well the latest Myrkur album, Spine, finds Amalie dealing with the aftermath of childbirth, and the mixture of emotions that this entails, so an oasis of calm Spine is not! Oh no, this is something a bit different. It could be described as an amalgam of her Danish folk roots and metal, but it’s so much more besides. There is a shimmering beauty and an accessibility we’ve not heard before from Myrkur, and it’s the most varied musical palette she’s served up so far, but nevertheless it isn’t a particularly easy listen. It moves from euphoria to darkness and back several times over its length, and it is as uncompromising as it is beautiful. Perhaps Amalie has found her true voice with this record, or perhaps the search will continue. She sounds restless, but inspired.

We start in typical fashion with a Scandinavian landscape introductory piece titled Bålfærd, which is Danish for a Viking funeral, and has a suitably sombre mood. Paradoxical perhaps, given that the songs here are inspired after a birth, but Myrkur is complex and, it would seem, never far from mental conflict. This might be tormenting, but it is also a source once again of inspiration. This is evident from the first proper song on Spine, Like Humans, which enters with a dark menacing riff, then that shimmering crystal clear voice, a strange combination of dark and light. This quickly gives way to the chorus, and the mood changes to something altogether lighter and hummable; the sort of chorus that lodges itself in your brain and stays there. It has a hypnotic quality which demands your full attention. Similarly, Mothlike has an eerie beauty built on piano, a bubbly synth pattern, post-rock guitar work, and another catchy vocal melody. The song builds in momentum to a climax of heavy guitar riffing.

The tone comes down again on My Blood is Gold, a slow atmospheric ballad with some wonderfully evocative viola playing from Myrkur. The elegiac chorus is full of bright optimism despite the overall dark tone of the piece. It’s a standout moment of sheer beauty, and serves as the ideal precursor for the title track which forms the beating heart of the record. If you want to know what Myrkur is all about in 2023, Spine says it all, the memorable melody, brooding chords and moments of heavy metal riffing all wrapped up in a voice which embodies this crossover style perfectly. The chorus is powerful and dramatic; it’s a song as moving as any here.

“My body made your spine, you and I intertwine,
You made me human, stay with me, you will be
The one I love the most.”

In places, the contrast of metallic riffing and the crystalline bright vocals remind me of Cellar Darling, but the similarity is fleeting, and the metal elements not as constant. Having said that, Valkyriernes Sang is the heaviest track, and would not have sounded out of place on Mareridt. Blazing Sky begins in similarly heavy style, but then the new modern Myrkur reasserts herself with another shimmering anthem underpinned with a folk sensibility and a melody that sounds instantly familiar. Devil in the Detail is possibly even better, a piano led torch song with plucked string accompaniment and soaring vocals, which builds to a guitar thrashing crescendo. It would be a fitting end to the album, but that honour falls to Menneskebarn, a lovely acoustic love song to the ‘human child’ as the emotional post-natal inferno is finally doused with cooling waters. It’s the perfect ending to the album, and this roller coaster ride between euphoria and despair finally seems to have ended on a positive note.

I have some experience of the kinds of conflicting feelings which can follow the birth of a child, but I don’t pretend to understand the full gamut of emotions Amalie has been through. This album though goes some way to documenting some of the highs and lows, and is a fascinating insight from an artist who manages to articulate some of her mental anguish, and finds inspiration from the hardest of times. I don’t wish her any further trauma, but this album proves that something beautiful and meaningful can come from the darkest places; positivity from despair, calm from turmoil. Spine is her best work yet in my view, and I recommend it highly.

01. Bålfærd (2:38)
02. Like Humans (4:47)
03. Mothlike (4:11)
04. My Blood is Gold (3:43)
05. Spine (4:04)
06. Valkyriernes Sang (3:56)
07. Blazing Sky (3:27)
08. Devil in the Detail (4:23)
09. Menneskebarn (2:40)

Total Time – 33:49

Myrkur (Amalie Bruun) – Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Viola
Maja Shining – Bass, Synthesiser
Mikkel Haastrup – Guitars
Kristian Uhre – Drums

Record Label: Relapse Records
Country of Origin: Denmark
Date of Release: 20th October 2023

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