Review || Myrkur - "Spine"

There's no doubt 2023 has been a busy year for Myrkur. Also known as the vehicle of expression of Danish singer and multi-instrumentalist Amalie Bruun, she was tasked by the Royal Danish Theatre to score a production of "Ragnarok", an endeavor which she also released under the Myrkur brand for her fans' listening pleasure earlier this year. Restless as she is, on October 20th 2023 Myrkur will be revealing a brand new album, titled "Spine", via Relapse Records. Conceived in the tumultuous time of the pandemic, "Spine" attempts to take a deep look into the alienation that marked that period, navigating the grief of a family loss, all while discovering the different facets of motherhood. 

In the singles that preceded the release, the listeners took a small taste of the twists that Bruun masterfully crafted in this 34-minute long journey into her creative gateway. The reality is however that the songwriter is reaching new levels of musicianship, combining various elements and influences into a complex yet still immersive sonic tapestry. Her vocal performance is less strenuous this time around; leaving her robust storytelling persona to the side, Amalie is approaching "Spine" in an almost soothing, nurturing manner. She is relying mostly on her head voice instead of her chest register, employing a softer, endearing tone to deliver some of her most mesmerizing chants. Whether she explores a dream pop idea ("Mothlike") or a cradle song ("Menneskebarn"), her warm timbre is always influencing the soundscape. Interestingly enough, she's still able to convey a powerful vocal projection even without switching registers. On "Devil In The Detail", for instance, after building tension with the pizzicato strings, she emerges in the bridge in all her breathy simplicity, and effortlessly juxtaposes (and elevates) the thunderous blastbeat without resorting to screaming once. And it's perfect.

Instrumentally, she establishes a haunting yet somewhat familiar atmosphere, which she successfully maintains regardless of each song's atmosphere and composition. From shoegaze nuances to black metal passages to orchestral embellishments, Bruun creates a dark allure that captivates the listener. The beauty of "Spine" is that no song is alike or predictable; "Like Humans" has insanely catchy hooks, while on "My Blood Is Gold" the ambience shifts drastically, with a piano and a string ensemble completely replacing the electric instruments and shaping an overwhelmingly emotional wall. And even though the title track experiments in a similar vein, it briefly picks up its electric character only to give way to the amplified choral arrangements that restore a semblance of balance, before "Valkyriernes Sang" blasts in full force. The pagan metal-inspired theme, an homage to her roots, implores the transition from the airy tones to her middle register and even some (literal) screams to compliment the blistering nature of the composition. "Blazing Sky" is a fitting transition; while still heavy in the instrumentation it leans to the more somber side and at times feels like it's channeling Tori Amos in the lamenting vocal delivery.

Overall, "Spine" is a very intelligent album. In her most integral work to date, Myrkur appears dauntless; Amalie Bruun is pushing her artistic boundaries, honoring her past and aiming to the future. She dares to bring forth her experimenting nature even further, expanding her core "playground" to include anything and everything from synthesizers to blastbeats -and she does so exceptionally well. "Spine" is an ode to resilience and the absolute liberation one can achieve from trusting a certain creative vision to not just bend, but essentially abolish, any genres or labels they've been attributed.


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