Atmospheric Black Metal

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The most commonly played among the sub-genres of black metal, Atmospheric Black Metal artists typically draw the genre into a less aggressive direction. While much of the black metal genre as whole may be deemed as atmospheric (especially when compared to other extreme metal styles like thrash metal and death metal), atmospheric black metal acts take things a step further. Keyboard use is common in the style, though not mandatory, while the music's pace tends to be slow to mid. Well known performers include Burzum, Darkspace and Fen.

Different types of atmospheric black metal artists may incorporate elements of ambient music, folk music, post-rock or sludge metal, as well as drawing on aspects of other black metal styles, such as Summoning, whose music is both atmospheric black metal and symphonic black metal.

Alternative names for the genre include Ambient Black Metal and Post-Black Metal, the latter typically referring to those artists who draw influence from post-rock and/or sludge metal.

Inclusive Atmospheric Black Metal Sub-Genres

Blackgaze is a sub-genre of atmospheric black metal so named for its resemblance to shoegaze music. It may include influences from the neoclassical darkwave and post-punk music genres.

Cosmic Black Metal or Space Black Metal (though this may refer to any black metal artist who writes about space) is an atmospheric black metal sub-genre that draws on space ambient music.

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atmospheric black metal Music Reviews

MYRKUR Mareridt

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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adg211288
It's fair to say the M (2015), the debut full-length album by Danish atmospheric black metal/dark folk solo project Myrkur, the moniker of musician Amalie Brunn, made quite a splash in the metal scene when it was released, albeit one that resulted in a decidedly mixed reaction. While M was nothing if not a divisive album, it's obvious that a lot of the criticism it received got well out of hand, to the point that some of the album's detractors even launched personal attacks on Brunn as a musician and as a person. Fortunately Brunn seems to have been quite thick skinned to it and rather than be perturbed she's now back with her second full-length album, Mareridt (2017).

Mareridt is in some ways similar in M, but it's also very different once you get into it. The biggest change has to be that Myrkur has used a lot more pure folk elements this time around to the point that I'd even say these make up around half the album, what with full folk songs like Crown included and the influence cropping up in at least a small way in almost every track. There's still enough metal here to think of Mareridt as a metal album though. Most of the metal songs use atmospheric black metal rhythms, though that actually only means that four of them do; Måneblôt, Elleskudt, Ulvinde and Gladiatrix, as Mareridt, Crown, De Tre Piker and Ketteren are all pure folk songs, which leaves only three further tracks on the album that don't belong primarily to either genre. The atmospheric black metal parts, when present, feel much more honed and focussed this time, making them easier to recognise even with Myrkur's atypical use of clean vocals as her primary singing style.

The metal parts on Mareridt are more varied compared to M though thanks to a greater presence of doom metal influences, something I detected only ever so slightly on M. They're much more pronounced here, particularly on the tracks The Serpent and Funeral, the latter of which proves aptly named for its style as it seems closer to funeral doom metal to me than anything. Slow, heavy, subdued and sombre work and easily the darkest sounding song on the album. It also features Chelsea Wolfe on vocals and guitars. It's a short song, as are all the songs on Mareridt, lasting only three minutes, but it's enough to show that the two ladies work well together. One can only hope this will one day lead to a proper collaboration between the two. It's just screaming to happen with this track, which barely scratches the surface of what may be possible if they joined forces for a whole album.

Regarding the vocals, there are actually less growls on Mareridt than ever before in Myrkur's music, only really being used in a major way on singles Måneblôt and Ulvinde (with a little bit in the background on Gladiatrix). With those two tracks released first it was actually really surprising how growl-free the rest of Mareridt is, but maybe that is for the best. Myrkur does decent growls, particularly the ones on Måneblôt are easily the best and fiercest she's ever done, but clean singing is where she excels. Her ethereal voice works equally well with her folk music tracks, but also against the atmospheric black metal guitars. She's proof, if any was needed by this point, that it's perfectly possible for at least the atmospheric branch of this particular genre to exist without the traditional vocal style. With that said, the growled parts do really add some extra punch and if there's a criticism to be had it's that the album could do with a couple more of these moments. But only a couple more.

While the lower amount of metal may lessen Mareridt's appeal to the metal crowd, the album flows between its soft and heavy parts incredibly well, feeling natural and not forced. While I regard M highly, Mareridt certainly feels a lot more refined and ultimately comes across as the stronger release. While there are individual track highlights to be had, namely Måneblôt, Elleskudt, Funeral and Ulvinde, the overall short running time makes it a very easy album to experience in one sitting and that's the only way to do it if you want to hear all the elements work just right. The only real eyebrow raising moment is it's finale, Børnehjem, which features a voice over that sounds like a demonic little girl. It's basically an outro fortunately, but it makes me feel as if the audio track of a cheesy horror film got mixed in by mistake. I don't think it sounds bad, more like out of place with the rest of the release. Still, I can't hold the final 2:22 minutes against Myrkur when the rest of Mareridt is such quality work. It probably won't win over her most fervent haters, but those who enjoyed the self-titled EP (2014) and M, as well as acoustic live release Mausoleum (2016), are sure to find much to enjoy here.

MYRKUR Myrkur

EP · 2014 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Unitron
Sometimes, music is more of an experience or a journey than anything else. There's nothing quite like entering the mosh pit for an Anthrax or Exodus classic, or gaping in awe of a neo-classical shredder on stage. There's also an introspective and contemplative side, which can transport the listener to a whole different world and setting. Myrkur, a Danish one-woman black metal band, rests on this side.

Myrkur takes the listener to dark hollow Gothic chambers and secluded forests, with no sign of other life. It's a spine-chilling trip among harsh black metal dirges and mystical Scandinavian folk tunes, which is one of the best and most fitting combinations I've heard. Myrkur's vocals have the perfect contrast, switching between caustic black metal shrieks and soulful choir vocalizations, both sending chills down the spine. As opposed to some black metal that is just constant chug and fast same-y guitar riffing, Myrkur creates both beautiful and stark moods with each riff, with some particularly crushing yet atmospheric hooks. The bridge and end of "Latvian Fegurd" in particular blends the heaviness of a doom metal riff, with ominous aura. "Nattens Barn" has a guitar hook that's close to thrash, which surprisingly fits on an album like this, maybe because of the layering of atmosphere.

The production suits the EP perfectly, having a crackling rawness yet, just enough cleanness to be completely audible unlike many black metal albums. The black metal tracks utilize this perfectly, while the short folk pieces speak with much clarity despite the raw edge.

If you're looking for some beautiful yet heavy black metal, Myrkur is a must listen. Take a break from the daily grind, and visit some Gothic chambers and dark forests in the comfort of your home, car, library, or wherever you enjoy listening to music. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

FEN The Malediction Fields

Album · 2009 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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Warthur
Though I found that the followup, Epoch, suffered from a little sophomore slump, I was impressed enough by Fen's Winter to want to go back and explore more of their discography, and I find that The Malediction Fields is a superior example of their early sound. It's still atmospheric black metal with some blackgaze elements, but what makes this a keeper for me is the slightly more prominent post-rock influences, making Fen a sort of UK answer to the likes of Agalloch. Deftly balancing harsher and more gentle musical stretches, Fen display a deft command of atmosphere here, which of course is the name of the game in this particular black metal subgenre.

MYRKUR M

Album · 2015 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
MorniumGoatahl
Danish born musician Myrkur (birth name Amalie Bruun) has certainly picked up a dedicated following and more than her fair share of haters since the release of her debut album M a couple of years ago. She's currently building up to the release of a second, Mareridt, so I figured that now would be an ideal time to put my thoughts down about M. Her fans seem to treat her like she's the best thing since sliced bread while her haters will go out of their way to pull the album to bits and the more vehement ones have even seen fit to insult her personally, which to her credit she really takes in her stride.

Personally I find myself in the middle of these two groups. I am not a fan of the album M per se, but I certainly don't hate it either. One thing that is for sure is that it's nowhere near as bad as the woman's haters would have you believe, but I don't see it as a particularly special release either. It's listenable music at the very least.

Myrkur is associated with the black metal genre but to be honest I don't really hear it too much in this release. The vocal work is mostly clean with only a few parts where she actually uses any growls and for me those are a big part of what makes black metal what it is, though it's also not enough to preclude the release from being considered as such. Ulver, a band which is known to have been a big influence of Myrkur's music (Garm co-produced this album as well), had the first song on Bergtatt using only clean singing and that is definitely a black metal song, but my issue here is that I rarely hear musical techniques that sound black metal, beyond the production sound which does fit the bill. Instead there seems to be bits and pieces thrown together that could fit a number of metal styles. Often it seems that the most unifying element in the album is the use of Nordic folk music, which given Myrkur's fondness of clean vocals over growls makes me wonder if creating some kind of folk metal wouldn't be more her forte.

As is, the album gives me the impression that Myrkur isn't really sure where she wants to be musically. If this is an earnest attempt at a black metal release then it's really not great, but the end product does have its charm. Myrkur's clean singing voice especially, is very good. But I do think she needs to decide whether she really wants to be a black metal artist (which would require her to find some more black metal elements from somewhere) or something else (in which case it may be to her benefit to get rid of what black metal elements she does have on M). I'll be checking out Mareridt out of curiosity when it drops, but for me M will always be simply 'OK'.

3.0/5.0

DZÖ-NGA Upon the Shimmered Bough

EP · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Sandwiched between their debut album “Five Treasures Of Snow” and their 2017 followup full-length “The Sachem’s Tales,” DZÖ-NGA released this one track mini-EP UPON THE SHIMMERED BOUGH which features the 15 minute and 39 second track of the same name. This single track is pretty much a bridge between the percussionless debut album and the more developed second one. UPON THE SHIMMERED BOUGH carries the torch of the cold and darkened dungeon synth type of atmospheric keyboards with the heavy black metal guitar segments but also adds blastbeat percussion. Also found are the mellow atmospheric folk sections with clean vocals but the metal parts are more furious and less buried in the mix than on the debut. Unlike the following “The Sachem’s Tales” this one is entirely performed as a one man show of Cryvas who plays the guitars, keyboards, bass (which is buried in the mix) as well as the clean and shrieked vocals.

UPON THE SHIMMERED BOUGH is a decent atmospheric black metal track. It has the best of both worlds. It builds up the intensity with intricate classically inspired piano runs, heavy atmospheric electronica and folk sections with lots of room to let the instrumental parts breathe before the vocals augment the melodic developments. After it builds up the tension, the black metal parts are satisfactory in their intensity but never lose the atmospheric creepiness. After the track fully unfolds and crescendoes, the track ends with a dungeon synth outro and chimes that truly ushers out a well done track that delivers the dark and depressive goods as expected from the album cover. Perhaps the only thing not going for UPON THE SHIMMERED BOUGH is that it doesn’t exactly reek in creativity. It would take the addition of Grushenka Ødegård’s feminine charm to add an extra layer to give DZÖ-NGA a boost into more interesting territory but this EP is quite decently done and a great listen.

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