Myrkgrav – Sjuguttmyra EP

From a lesser looked upon corner of the heavy metal framework, folk metal emerges. Many bands invade metal consciousnesses−incognito style, adopting varying directions while occasionally generating just as much disapproval as cliché death metal themes of gore. Myrkgrav offers a perspective from an adjacent corner of “do it yourself metal.”

Myrkgrav is a blackened folk metal project that belongs to Lars Jensen, a native of Norway. The act settles somewhere along an underground appeal, existing among contemporaries. Turning its gaze away from the Viking focus of Norwegian outfit, Mistur, Myrkgrav shares musical characteristics, but then, it is not quite as acoustically-oriented as Agalloch, hailing from the States; another glimpse at Myrkgrav shows that it is similar to the saddened black metal of Finland’s Draugnim and a closer look almost aligns it with the Swedish folk metal band, Otyg.

The “Sjuguttmyra EP” follows Myrkgrav’s 2006 full length, “Trollskau, Skrømt Og Kølabrenning”; the album made an impressive imprint within the extreme scope of metal, largely attributed to the familiarity of folk melodies and the unique inclusion of lyrical content that is tailored to Jensen’s Ringerike region. With a few guest musicians, the latest EP progresses with the same ideals of the full length, a nurturing of local folklore.

The artwork for Myrkgrav’s “Sjuguttmyra EP.”

“Sjuguttmyra” (“Seven Lad Marsh”) dawns to acquaint listeners with the hardanger fiddle, supplementing the folk atmosphere along with the richness of clean vocals. At the core of those musical aesthetics, the song conveys a captivating story:

“Ei ta døm største Ringsmyra / Noko nord om Lauvliseter / Fekk engong Sjuguttmyra tel namn / Etter noko grufullt hadde hendt” (One of the largest Ring-marshes / A stone’s throw north of Lauvliseter / Was once named Sjuguttmyra / After something terrible happened there)

“Sjuguttmyra” unravels to tell about six of seven youngsters who died while battling each other; the story is mystique since the seventh fighter told about the happening before meeting his end. Further exploration in the song finds darkened instrumentation that is purged by blast beats as the horrors of that clash are relayed. Over fierce instrumentation, harsh vocals are prominent:

“Døm vart itte eni’på ansles vis / Enn om å sliss te blodet rann” (Seems they couldn’t come to an agreement / Any other way than to fight until rivers of blood would flow)

In that respect, listeners will not have to search far to receive a dose of brutality. Though, these extreme efforts do not neglect a balance of melody and harmony, which is consistent with softer qualities of folk-influenced metal. The track returns to the opening melody, giving dimension to the overall approach of the song.

The following track is “De To Spellemenn,” traceable to a traditional Danish song that easily ignites an expansive folk aura. While it became one of the full length’s notable tracks, its appearance on the EP is equipped with some distinct changes. These are mostly noticeable through slight rhythmic alterations and less emphatic background vocals.

Some instant offerings of “Uttjent” (“Out-served”) exercise the more extreme nuances of metal, not shying away from the patter of blast beats and equally active guitars; its spirit is hardened. A depressive tonality does carry the piece to a melodious territory for listeners who favor the chime of clean singing, which appears at the beginning as well as the end. A final noteworthy attribute of the song is its styling, possessing poetic wording:

“Alt vi gjorde har visna vekk / Lagt ned i ei stille grav / Sjøl om sorga har stilna / Takker je for det skauen gav” (Everything we did has withered away / Buried in a silent grave / Even though the sorrow has passed / I thank the forest for what it gave)

Like “De To Spellemenn,” “Fela Etter’n Far” proved to be a celebratory mark on the Myrkgrav’s full length and is included on the EP. It recounts the experiences of an elderly fiddler−this time as a fifth anniversary edition. Entering in a similar fashion as the opening track, the song presents itself with a layering of strings that collapse into song:

“Han øvde lenge, lengre og hardt / Med felespell og dans skulja’n  komma langt / Ja, han øvde lenge, lengre og hardt / Med felespell og dans kunne’n få betalt” (He practiced long, lengthy and hard / Through fiddling and dancing he’d get far / He practiced long, lengthy and hard / Through fiddling and dancing he’d get paid)

This phrasing does justice to the instrumentation, bundling a nostalgic and longing vibe. The remaining time in the track is spent weaving harsh and clean vocals. More specifically, the EP’s edition of “Fela Etter’n Far” seems to fulfill a desired channeling of harmony that is uplifted as the song nears completion.

The “Sjuguttmyra EP” does not seem to shift from Myrkgrav’s original focus, amplifying folklore through enchanting, yet comforting, melancholia of black and melodic metal. The “do it yourself metal” nature of the EP accomplishes an ability to practice an independence, while making necessary advances to mature Myrkgrav and secure its former feats. Keeping the work from being stuck in the crannies of recurring themes, its defining quality, ironically, is in proving it can digest pieces of local history to continue the metal tradition of savoring the lesser known, the truth.

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