Thursday, March 28, 2013

Myrkgrav - Sjuguttmyra (EP) (2013)

Imagine being a college age fan of metal. You are browsing the class listing at your University of choice, looking for that history credit you may so desperately need. You stumble on a class that fits your life schedule, but you have to do a double take. History through metal. Not a history of the music itself, but the history of world cultures told through the use of metal subgenres. The rise and fall of the Roman Empire, done completely in power metal tracks. The Renaissance told through operatic symphonic pieces. And now, the local history of Norway, told through the music and voice of Lars Jensen. As the mainman behind the Myrkgrav moniker, Jensen has told the stories of his locale through folk metal means for years, hoping to prevent history from fading into forgotten lore. While 2006's "Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning" was a good start, it is his new work that may put his goal to the test. On "Sjuguttmyra," Jensen celebrates an anniversary, and continues with the tales of Ringerike, Hole, Lommedalen and Sørkedalen, Norway.

The familiar sound of fiddles opens the title track, a folk metal track, through and through. While this may play as a traditional folk metal song, the vocals are anything but ordinary. Guardians Of Time singers Bernt Fjellestad chants and croons his way through the verse, with an operatic power in his voice that few embody. When the time comes for the dastardly screeching to begin, Jensen hits the mark again. The instrumental echoes his enthusiasm, combining that heavy handed work with some ethnic backing. A fresh reprise of "De to spellemenn," originally appearing on the 2006 "Trollskau" album, follows. With new production quality and an added vibrance, Jensen does his past a great service here, delivering a folk anthem for the ages, thanks greatly to the vocal prowess shared by Jensen and Sindre Nedland. That skill is never more evident than on "Uttjent," where both the melodic and murderous sides shine through. One is used to complement the other, creating an enjoyable contrast between light and dark; or in this case, dark and darker. The tempo of the guitars and drums keeps the blackened folk spirit alive, without overwhelming the mix. A second reprise closes the album, with a newly recorded version of "Fela etter'n far" given the closing duties. You would be hard pressed to find a more majestic and full offering than this one. Tying together the schools of folk thought, Jensen brings a lot to the table in his arrangements. Strings and traditional folk instruments are scattered evenly throughout the basic mix of guitars, bass and drums, resulting in a song that is as catchy as it is pounding.

As the face and frontman of such an inspired project, Lars Jensen finds himself in an interesting position. He has mastered the use of metal to spread the folklore and traditions of Norway, without ever deviating from the classic style. Somehow, he makes it sound fresh and new. That is completely to his credit as a songwriter, as well as a local historian, and it deserves mention. In the modern age of ADD and short attention spans, why NOT use metal music as a vessel for growth and education? If anything, the tracks on "Sjuguttmyra" and the aforementioned "Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning" are proof that it can be done. So whether you fancy yourself a fan of the new wave of folk metal, or the old school variety, you will surely find something in these four tracks to hang your hat on. And, with the help of Rosetta Stone or the ass backwards translations of Bing or Google, you might even learn something you hadn't thought about before.


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