Music

Myrkur: Mausoleum

Myrkur living in a mausoleum with the Norwegian Girls Choir is the new black.


Myrkur

Mausoleum

Label: Relapse
US Release Date: 2016-08-19
UK Release Date: 2016-08-19
Amazon
iTunes

I was just in Viljandi, Estonia, for an annual folk festival. Listening to some very medieval-sounding and borderline-metal folk-chanting over accordion that lifted the hearts of attendees with a somber and uniting flair, I couldn't help but reflect on how so much of music could benefit from different branches being less derided and seen more as ongoing cultural development. From pop to post-metal to hip-hop, music has so many branches even within one genre. It's a shame when we don't nurture something potentially unique due to insecurely measuring it ahead of time to things of the past.

Denmark's undeservedly controversial Myrkur is the oft-debated baby of Amalie Bruun, a figure who is only really polarizing to misogynists in the black metal scene. Norway's Sylvaine also mines ethereal, dark post-rock and flirts with black metal territory (excellent new track "In the Wake of Moments Passed by" is a particular highlight of her recent Wistful release). Bruun's rapid rise to popularity, however, seemed to deeply threaten yet titillate a large swath of self-loathing black metal purists who actually love writhing in torment at perceived slights worse than any "SJW" that right-wingers tend to protest.

Less a bulwark against "black metal purity" than simply pathetic foot-dragging in 2016, this kind of attitude makes me want to blast Journey's superior-to-most-extreme-metal "Seperate Ways" into their mom's basement like I'm that Navy Seal going after Osama with his Christian metal Demon Hunter patch on, only without any nationalist crusade-like Western revenge connotations. That stuff is icky.

This is more about recognizing true talent. The gentle tide of "Jeg er guden, I er tjenere" alone here proves Myrkur is actually far more compelling than many second-wave black metal apers set on patting one another on the back for staying in the narrow confines of a fading era that even innovators of that time like Darkthrone and Satyricon have evolved beyond. The fact that Bruun could win over rowdy Behemoth fans in a coveted opening slot on a huge recent North American tour speaks volumes, but the new live Mausoleum record is truly going to make haters seem pathetic not only for the death threats Bruun has endured, but for doubting her substantial musicianship or being miffed because she dared to do her own take on a Bathory song.

It is cool to like a style or want a legacy to endure, but becoming hindered by it to the point of self parody is kind of like EPMD having way too many albums with the word business in the title. After a while, it gets a little hokey (no disrespect to the guys who wrote "You Gots to Chill").

Getting a Myrkur live record that smokes many extreme metal albums released in 2016, with Bruun backed by the Norwegian Girls Choir in the historic Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum in Oslo, is almost as satisfying as it will be if Trump loses to a woman and the GOP implodes in a fireball.

The performances are spellbinding. "Onde Born" is like having a bird's-eye view of a long-delayed reunion in a smoky vista—it appeals to the lonely romantic side like much of this material. "Frosne Vind" opens with a soothing guitar melody that almost recalls Christian song "What Child Is This?" before layered harmonies take over. I was able to listen to this at 5:30 in the morning and not disturb my household, but that certainly doesn't decrease the value of the work.

Anyone who was sexist enough to think Garm from Ulver, Teloch of Mayhem, and Arch Enemy's Christopher Amott only collaborated with Bruun for hype's sake or to somehow prop her up to improve her cred to the black metal scene is probably destined to have their enjoyment of this record pre-colored by bias. Their loss.

Granted, you could play some of this and Enya on the same playlist and not ruffle too many feathers. It's largely beautiful stuff—cinematic reinventions with acoustic leanings and a particular emphasis on piano and vocal. If this was Sólstafir, it would have fanboys creaming their Skeletor/Varg underoos instead of hating. "Skøgen skulle dø" is particularly transportive, moving from ethereal voice to stark ballad and holding attention like waiting with baited breath for the stillness to break in a clearing or a letter from someone you love. The rolling piano sections almost recall the sense of motion, beauty, and revelation of Moby's "God Moving over the Face of the Waters", albeit with sick Scandinavian female vocalization on top. You could seriously score an entire Netflix period piece series with just cuts from this album, and no one would blink in protest.

Kudos to Relapse Records for standing behind Myrkur and other strong female-led (an almost patronizing term in 2016) groups like King Woman, Christian Mistress, or Windhand in recent years. Women have just as important or (often) more interesting roles to play, perhaps the product of creatively being stamped down for so long but nonetheless clearly as capable of releasing talented works. We really need to change the narrative and appreciate people's contributions for what they are rather than aren't, something even the "cool" Pope needs to learn after making anti-trans comments that kids shouldn't be allowed to choose gender.

What's "terrible and unnatural" is old white guys, whether Christian pontiffs or stinky black metal purists (who will hate being lumped in with the Pope), not allowing people to follow their own remarkable sense of self discovery. Where is the God or freedom in that?

9

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image