Label: Nordvis Produktion
Release 26 April 2019
Format reviewed: Digital Promo
Swedish black metal duo MURG exploded onto the scene back in 2015 with their ‘Varg & Björn’ album to critical acclaim and became an instant black metal classic that was in Scandinavia’s hallowed “God Tier” of black metal bands. Harbouring a primal, gritty, and no-frills approach to their music; sounding fresh but at the same time like a long lost shelved band from the early 1990s that captivated certain sonic magic with extreme metal fans. If black metal is the equivalent to an expensive aftershave, then Murg’s debut would be something you found in Harrods for around three hundred quid – where you went absolutely ballistic at your nephew for pouring it down the toilet “Because it looked like pee pee, Uncle Mark”. It harboured a certain essence, that had an immediate allure that was in much extreme metal ‘Album Of The Year’ lists at the time. A year later, they released the ‘Gudatall’ album that was also critically acclaimed but didn’t quite blow the minds and ears of those who heard their debut. However, Murg is the sort of band where a bad day in their book would still blow lesser black metal bands out of the water. An absence of three years had people assuming Murg were a two hit black metal wonder, that would be left as a small footnote in black metal’s history, but now they’re back with a vengeance with their ‘Strävan’ album. This is set to be released on the 26th April via Nordvis as a digital download, spinning digital silver disc, and large black analog discs (as is the fashion nowadays, where owning such things makes you “The toast of the town”).
So, has the wait been worth it? Yes, and then some. For those unfamiliar with Murg and looking for a reference point, think the early 90s Enslaved albums and EP’s (‘Yggdrasill’, ‘Hordanes Land’, and the more brutal elements of ‘Eld’) with a mix of early Borknagar. However, the albums differ due to cleaner production values that help the album to breathe; so that it doesn’t sound like a worn Memorex tape played back in a dog eared Citroen Saxo’s stereo that your Chav cousin is smoking around in. Yes, “that atmosphere” is all very well for the veteran black metal fan, but with certain ears, there’s a certain expectation that has been cultivated when some listeners have only gone as far as latter day Dimmu Borgir with regards to dipping their toes into the scene. The starting track ‘Ur myren’ is a gentle and calm instrumental track, sounding quite ethereal before breaking into ‘Strävan’ that conveys a certain majesty with a wall of icy sounding guitars that sounds slow and mysterious, with a tempo that ebbs and flows to build up drama and impact. A worthy stand out track, in particular, is ‘Renhet’, that conveys a strong atmosphere that is immediately accessible and is one of the stand out tracks on the album that can sit comfortably with their small but strong back catalog. The album as a whole based itself around varying shifts in mood and timbre, sticking to a ‘less is more’ approach without the need to flesh the album out with overblown keyboard and synth flourishes that may detract from the album as a collective whole. Essentially, harbouring a vintage 1990s black metal sound without sounding like a wishy washy pastiche of various other bands which have probably done this thing before, and much better.
In many ways, ‘Strävan’ feels new, but familiar. Like visiting a friend you’ve only known last summer that you’ve met at a gig or festival, where you feel that comfortable around them you feel like you’ve known them for decades; that you already feel you could trust with absolutely anything. In the crazy uncertain times that we live in, such qualities are an underrated thing and these guys pretty much do what they say on the album sleeve: reliable, enjoyable, workmanlike black metal that can be filed with the scenes greatest albums in your collection. 8/10 Goth Mark
8/10 To Greatness and Glory
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