MYRKUR‘s Spine is a gorgeous, heartfelt tribute not only about the trials and tribulations but also the jubilation that comes with motherhood.

Release date: October 20, 2023 | Relapse Records | Facebook | Bandcamp | Band Website

Similar to like artists like Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle, Denmark’s MYRKUR has been carving out a niche of sound that is entirely her own. What differentiates MYRKUR’s stylistic offerings from the others, apart from being a little more on the metal side of things, is how deeply rooted in Scandinavian folk the music here is. Her newest release, Spine, shows yet another evolution that blends the wide variety of musical aesthetics that she has been known to experiment with thus far along with plenty of electronic/synth embellishments immersed throughout. While the record is so incredibly brief, it still manages to create such a diverse and sonically rich musical journey that allows you to vicariously experience the whirlwind of emotions that come with Motherhood.

MYRKUR’s Amalie Bruun is no stranger to making music that is deeply personal and emotionally vulnerable. With her previous release, the utterly gorgeous Folkesange, we get a glimpse into Bruun’s childhood upbringing that was characterized by an engrossed connection with Scandinavian culture. Moving forward with Spine, we get to dive even deeper into Bruun’s psyche as she navigates one of the most beautiful, yet equally as traumatic events that a person could ever go through in their lives; childbirth and Motherhood. From the oxytocin-rich euphoria and endless love to the crippling anxiety and fear, all these emotions are masterfully captured and displayed in this collection of songs.

Spine is an amalgam of all the musical styles Bruun is known to utilize across her back catalogue. The heavy Scandinavian folk influence fully indulged on Folkesange leaves its mark here on tracks like “Balfaerd”, “My Blood Is Gold”, and “Menneskebarn” most notably, amongst others in smaller doses. The dark, brooding sonic atmospheres akin to that from Mareridt and M are also found on Spine albeit sprinkled throughout. Despite these seemingly hopeless soundscapes and melancholic embellishments, there is a persisting sense of triumph and optimism that reigns true as is especially evident on “Valkyriernes Sang” for example, especially with the massive power metal-esque, operatic vocals closing out the track.

From a musical perspective, there are so many layers of lavish instrumentation, serene-as-can-be vocals, and subtle synth/electronic influences that make it so inviting to microdissect with each successive listen. “Like Humans” and “Mothlike” are standout tracks on the record, befittingly chosen as singles, as the musical symbiosis between all these various elements is masterfully implemented. It is always a treat to hone in on the subtle electronic effects that linger in the background as it adds to the hypnotic nature of the music. Additionally, while most records usually have one or two songs at most that worm their way into your subconscious to be recalled at the most inconvenient times, I find myself mentally rotating through nearly all of the tracks on Spine as they all have something infectious about them.

One thing that does feel a little forced on this record is the several moments in which the harsher instrumentation is implemented and how it sounds alongside the angelic, shimmering music that precedes it. Production-wise, everything apart from the metal aspects are so crystal clear, but when it is time for the overdriven guitar and percussion to kick into high gear, it is very vintage and abrasive sounding. It is in true fashion to the black metal aesthetic and more importantly, to the complex, ‘negative’ emotions being portrayed, making it clear that this is an intentional stylistic choice.

Nevertheless, how these vast stylistic differences are presented feel as if they could’ve been executed a bit better. Tracks like “Mothlike” and “Like Humans” are examples in which these contrasting styles are perfectly balanced and there is such a smooth transition that you don’t even realize the contrast; the juxtaposition works beautifully in this case. Meanwhile on “Devil in the Detail”, the blast beat comes out of nowhere and it is a hugely different pace from the entirety of the song that came before, not to mention the change in premeditated production quality (or rather guitar tone). It feels unnecessary and just a tad out of place.

Overall, the album itself is quite transient, as every time I listen to it, it is over not long after it had just begun. With the wide musical breadth of styles captured on this album and how they’re presented in such a tight and succinct format, it feels like a musical appetizer platter that gives you a crash course on all the styles Bruun is capable of experimenting with. While it is great for music to leave you craving more, Spine manages to still leave me hungry, despite having pleasantly enjoyed what I had consumed.

Just as a particular idea on a given track was starting to take hold, it was already onto the next track that had something else to offer. Some tracks feel whole and complete whereas others could’ve been a little more fleshed out. With the album being nine songs long, it very well could be a symbolic to the nine months of pregnancy. Not only that, but the way this album feels so ephemeral could reflect how those early months/years of parenthood just fly by and you can’t revisit them no matter how much you wish you could. You just need to be sure to be there and savor those small moments as they happen!

With Spine being MYRKUR’s most sonically diverse effort to date, not to mention the most emotionally vulnerable, you’ll find no shortage of enchanting soundscapes and infectious hooks alongside bleak instrumentals. While the record does leave a little to be desired from a compositional standpoint, it makes up for that with the sheer authenticity and utmost quality of the music that is present. Regardless, the end result is something that Amalie Bruun can truly be proud of and reflect back upon when she wants to reminisce on her days of being a new mother!

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