Those who caught last year’s startling eponymous EP from Danish priestess Myrkur will surely be frothing at the mouth in anticipation of début album M (both Relapse). The bewitching amalgam of aesthetics and frozen agonies decorating that EP is, it seems, the template here also: the tremendously affecting medieval harmonies and instrumentation of opener ‘Skøgen Skulle Dø’ gradually fired by a solitary scream and tremolo underpin, while the drop into the eerie coda is both stirring and unnerving.
The early stages of the album show a progression from that début, thanks in no small part to the production skills of Ulver’s Garm, and a host of guest musicians including Teloch and Christopher Amott. The tuba and piano marking ‘Hævnen’ are incredibly effective, whilst truly powerful roars and explosions of sound are balanced by winsome intonations. The lead guitar of ‘Onde Børn’ is augmented by apt pedalwork, giving it an ethereal quality which deafens the down-mixed, trad metal-style riff and blastbeats. As subtleties threaten to engulf, harsh strings produce a delightfully jagged, edgy coda for an almost perfect unity twixt the two poles.
Vocals are at times both exquisite and euphoric: the spellbinding ‘Vølvens Spådom’ a siren’s call, the blend of ecstasy and mourning given staggering might by a reverberating riff. The marching, resonant drums of ‘Jeg Er Guden…’, meanwhile, are enhanced by chiming bells and delightful switches from languid inflections to coruscating rasps. Indeed it occasionally feels as if the Black elements of Myrkur’s sound are something of a supporting cast: the heartbreaking beauty of the Tori Amos-esque ‘Nordlys’ and closer ‘Norn’, plus the lamenting ‘Bissan Lull’ sticking in the mind longer than the nonetheless effective ‘Mordet’ with its blend of Black and NWOBHM rhythms.
There remains enough hostility on offer to keep our extremists intrigued: ‘Skaði’ in particular, with truly chaotic, fearful passages akin to Aevangelist infesting its haunting body, leaves the bones nicely chilled. That something special is at work here cannot be ignored, and M is further proof that this talented, inventive lady is set to confound, attract, entrance and unite disparate factions for years to come.