Myrkur: Myrkur EP

If you want to hear black metal music that’s heartfelt and from the womb, this is as good of a starting point as any.


Myrkur EP

Label: Relapse
US Release Date: 2014-09-16
UK Release Date: 2014-09-15

Having a woman make metal is a rare occurrence. Sure, there are the Lita Fords, Lee Aarons, and Severs of the world. However, women in the metal community tend to get relegated to being mere audience members, being a part of a crowd at a concert where they may get an elbow in the face or much, much worse. This is what makes Myrkur’s entrance into the realm of black metal as a solo artist so refreshing. However, she’s an artist that unfortunately isn’t without her share of controversy. Myrkur, aside from being a one-lady outfit, is really the pseudonym for Amalie Burnn, a Danish model who happens to lead the Brooklyn indie rock group Ex-Cops. Because she’s been successful outside of the realm of metal, it seems that she has her share of detractors and haters, as if she was supposed to live in a bleak, barren forest with goblins from the minute she entered this world, to roughly paraphrase a comment I saw somewhere online. Regardless of what you think of Burnn’s pedigree, you have to admit that her seven song, 25 minute debut EP as Myrkur (the Icelandic word for “darkness”) is quite spellbinding. Combining elements of choir chants, programmed drums, guitar riffage that slashs, and even, on “Dybt i Skoven”, shoegaze and dream pop, Myrkur has delivered a beguiling, enchanting and ethereal EP. Scoff at this if you want, but Myrkur is definitely a player in the black metal scene.

In fact, “Dybt i Skoven” is the song that you might find yourself returning to again and again, as heavy and extreme as much of the rest of the short album may be. It reminds me oddly of ‘90s British band Lush, and its slower pace and hazy melody is quite nocturnal. It’s three minutes of pure heavenly bliss, and had not the rest of the album been surrounded by more intense sounds, you might think that Myrkur would have a stellar career ahead of her as an artist who owes a bit of debt to the likes of My Bloody Valentine. Granted, the programmed drums race at points, which is something of a deterrent -- it’s as though they’re only there so the “metal” tag could get slapped on the song. Still, it’s a mostly great tune, one that might stick well inside your cranium. That all said, though, the rest of the EP is remarkably forceful. There is gloriousness in the multi-tracked choral vocals that almost feel Gregorian in nature. There’s a humble beauty in that offers a fragility and radiance to the material. Granted, some of the transitions can be awkward. One moment, as on opener “Ravnens Banner”, vocals swoop down from the clouds above, only to give way to punishing, fast-fretted guitar work. It is a little oil and water, but one still cannot deny that it is a unique effect.

There are other moments where classical-style music takes to the fore. The nearly two-minute “Frosne Vind” has a flamenco feel to it, combined with those swirling female vocals. It’s the sort of music for days when a coating of frost lays on your window, there’s the crunch of light snow under your feet outside, and you can see your breath crystallize before you. However, there’s a minor pain point: just when you’re getting into the song, it’s over. From there, Hell freezes over on the bone-crushing “Må Du Brænde i Helvede”, which is a lighting quick race across the slush. Again, there’s frigidity to this material, conjuring up images of leafless trees and mulch. “Latvan Fergurõ” is a quick gallop through the badlands, with those jaw-dropping vocals clearing a path through the muck. “Nattens Barn” continues with the gothic tradition of wonderful dew-dripped vocals sung in unison, before, once again, the listener is plunged headlong into some heavy shredding. The album’s end note, “Ulvesangen”, is 47 seconds of the sort of thing you might be accustomed to hearing in a church. It’s chamber music for the soul.

While it’s possible that you can poke at the Myrkur EP and find plenty of faults with it -- for one, it would have been nicer if all of the elements that make up the sound were blended together a bit more -- it is nevertheless quite agreeable. Sure, it may not be heavy enough, dreamy enough, or whatever you want it to be enough, but it does satisfy. While Myrkur is arguably the product of a marketing machine -- one that didn’t drop her true identity until the day of release, a mystery move that may have detracted attention away from the music -- there’s enough on this short disc to warrant much listening. You also have to give bonus points to the artist for being a female in a very heavily male-dominated genre, and, as such, you can hear a feminine touch to metal on this recording, which makes it all the more attractive. Myrkur illustrates that black metal doesn’t have to be nothing but darkness; there are so many splendid moments of light on the record that you’ll end up forgiving the artist for whatever moments of indulgence she takes on. Myrkur and Myrkur are both beautiful and charmed, and if you want to hear black metal music that’s heartfelt and from the womb, she and it are as good of a starting point as any.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.