Barely a year after Myrkur‘s outrage-catalyzing debut EP, the Danish folk/black metal project is on the brink of releasing its first album. Carrying the modest title M, this new release sends us through 11 tracks and clocks in at 36 minutes. Contrary to what this running time might suggest, Myrkur succeed in fleshing out some of the unpolished ideas which stood at the basis of last year’s EP. At the same time, M‘s 36 minutes are also enough to lay bare the shortcomings which have marred the band’s material from the outset.
In Holland we have a saying: “a good start is half the work.” Sadly, in the current context this cheesy but true poverb means that Myrkur have their work cut out for them when the first track turns out to be somewhat of a dud. While it does establish the murky, angelic timbre — which has proven to be one of the project’s stronger suits — the carefully layered tension is resolved anticlimactically. About two thirds in, the song wanders off into ambient meandering whose main purpose seems to be relieving the composer of bringing this piece to a satisfactory end.
The inconclusive nature of the first track is an important indicator of two problems which hurt this release. Firstly, it lacks the well-rounded songwriting that is required to connect the different aspects of Myrkur’s sound. Proper transitions are often absent, making the loud segments of this album feel tacked on instead of natural forays into black metal territory. Secondly, this issue occurs on a macro level in that the album lacks balance as a complete listening experience. Myrkur simply jump from one idea into another without weaving a consistent narrative. A handful of soothing interludes, instead of smoothening the pitch and creating equilibrium, merely magnify the discrepancy between the parts of this rusty machine.
That is not to say Myrkur did not make any progress with M: where this release falls short as a complete work, it occasionally succeeds on an individual level. Songs that stick to one idea — particularly those with a folky inclination — are quite enjoyable when they are not juxtaposed against the album as a whole. Whether it’s the dreamy allure of the Ulver-reminiscent single “Onde børn” or the ominous, soaring track “Jeg er Guden, i er tjenerne,” M features plenty of moments that reveal the potential of this endeavor. This potential will only increase once the black metal side of its being is allowed to fade further into the background.
To summarise, M is too much of a mixed bag for it to be considered a good album. Rather, it is a mediocre album with some remarkable spikes of quality. These wonderful moments are enhanced further by the strong musicianship and production, which are the result of frontwoman Amalie Bruun’s collaboration with some familiar faces from the Norwegian black metal scene. But while many of the right ingredients are on the table, the recipe is in need of improvement. When given the right amount of time and patience, Myrkur could certainly flourish. However, with the nebulous marketing campaign hyping up this project to incredible heights, patience may now be a rare commodity.