Myrkur / M: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Myrkur, M, Relapse Records, CD (2015)

At least USBM band Velvet Cacoon gave people a good laugh with their stories about their weird and wonderful diesel-harp guitar, their links to an ecoterrorist group and one of their members having spent time in an asylum. Relapse Records on the other hand can only manage a limp story about Myrkur having been founded by a mystery Danish lady living in the boonies of New York state, and that story collapsing in the wake of news that Myrkur is actually Amalie Bruun who fronts an indie-pop band called Ex Cops. With publicity like that, you fear for the quality and authenticity of Bruun’s new black metal vehicle Myrkur but let’s leave that aside and approach the debut album “M” with an open mind …

First up, let’s acknowledge the efforts of the musicians who helped Bruun bring this album to fruition: Garm (Ulver / Arcturus) on production duties, Mayhem six-stringer Teloch and Nidingr drummer Oyvind Myrvoll, providing the muscle and power behind the music. At last readers have actual names to praise (or to blame and shame) for the support behind the songs. As for Bruun herself, she plays keyboards and sings, and I assume she writes the songs as well. Having given credit where credit is due, now let’s get stuck into the recording …

The instrumental music itself is not bad and there is some interesting experimentation with various sound effects on one track “Mordet” about halfway through. After a couple of hearings though, I have the impression that the whole album is a lot of sound and fury that doesn’t amount to much. All the support and padding – and the marketing campaigns – in the world are as nothing if the artist and her songs have little to offer that is unique and distinct from everyone else in the business. Bruun’s singing simply cannot compete with the force and sheer strength of the music: she either needs coaching for a more powerful and controlled style of singing or she should consider a different genre of metal that would match her voice better. It’s all very well to like black metal and want to perform it yourself but as it exists now, and at the level where Bruun wants to perfrom, the genre does impose certain demands and expectations on artists’ abilities. The songs don’t boast any interesting, distinctive or unusual melodies, riffs or rhythms, and bring no influences from other genres or inspirations that would give the music and lyrics a style or flair all their own. Where Bruun strays into BM-style vocal rasp, it’s about halfway through the album and listeners might construe this as a calculated inclusion or a late afterthought; either way, Bruun’s singing does not sound genuine.

In short, this is the kind of album that might have been dreamt up by a marketing committee tasked with the job of finding an act that ticks all known boxes on a checklist, based on research done through social media or relying on teenage and undergraduate student offspring opinions. Get an artist likely to appeal to a target audience with looks, background and some vocal ability, surround her with capable musicians with excellent track records in the target genre and let them work through a batch of mostly generic and unremarkable songs, create and push through a marketing campaign to flog the result, and watch the money flood in.

The pity is that there is some real talent here – Bruun’s voice is actually very pretty and her piano work is not bad – and I think if she had better advice and help, she could succeed as a singer and musician, with all the limitations she has, and have respect based on credibility rather than hype.