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Myrkur - Folkesange (Album Review)

Friday, 27 March 2020 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Shawn Brackbill

On ‘Folkesange’, Danish black metal crossover artist Myrkur has leant headfirst into folk music, delivering a 12-song collection of gentile Nordic storytelling. The result is oddly disconcerting, with the record's production completely mishandled amid the feeling that crushing metal chords are constantly waiting around the corner.

The majority of the album is sung in Amalie Bruun’s native Danish, and with ancient folk writing traditions observed we're treated to quite familiar music that occasionally soars. But this record doesn't quite click and, despite organic arrangements (read: no synthesizers), 'Folkesange'' feels quite heavy handed and occasionally highly synthetic.

A good example of this is Svea, which opens with a lengthy violin sequence punctuated by folkish drums that resemble an Icelandic thunder clap. We are then greeted by non-lyrical sung phrases that intertwine in an elegant semi-round. 

Despite superb composition, the mis-production—particularly the overuse of reverb—puts the track in a very naff space. A good comparison is Steeleye Span’s 1973 rendering of Rogues in a Nation, which uses a lot of the same elements while sounding like a more real, tangible recording. Svea sounds like it was written for the video game Skyrim.

Sections of Scandinavian black metal can cross over into being naff, but because of its formal absurdity the genre's intensity is often underscored by a dark humour, at least to casual listeners. There may be humour in the Danish lyrics on 'Folkesange' (though two songs are in English and have the same effect), but it doesn’t really translate. What we are left with is an album that sounds like a pastiche of itself, with songs that are relentlessly earnest and epic.

But there is some superb music making here, and Bruun herself is clearly a fantastic composer. And still ‘Folkesange’ too often feels like a picture-postcard version of Nordic folk, like the cover to the record itself. It's infuriating because the music on this album probably has the capacity to break Myrkur internationally, but the production and the playing is too often cringe-inducingly overcooked. 

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