Mareridt

Band/Artist: Myrkur
Album: Mareridt
Best song: “Elleskudt” or “The Serpent”
Worst song: “Kætteren”

I love the show Forged in Fire. If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically Top Chef, but for blacksmiths. The host — a former Army Ranger named Wil Willis — gives the contestants some bit of metal to make a certain style of knife (sometimes it’s salvage material like bits of a tractor, sometimes it’s just regular metal bars that blacksmiths use). The first round is the blade (one of the four contestants gets bounced here), the second round means the contestants have to put on a handle. Then the knives go through these tests of cutting meat or into ice or whatever. Someone gets bounced, then the final two get to go back to their home forges to make some historical sword or weapon. Then more tests.

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It’s fucking wild, man. I’m a pretty nonviolent dude, but I find historical weapons interesting and I’m a big fan of taking shit apart/putting it back together. It’s on the History Channel, which is a stretch, but I fucking love the show..

In addition to the unfortunately named Wil Willis, the show has judges, each of whom looks less like he and I could hang. Doug Marcaida is a “edged weapon combat specialist” and has the look of someone who has stabbed someone. J. Neilson is a knifemaker who kinda looks like an accountant, but he still spends a lot of time in front of an anvil. David Baker is a steampunk-looking guy who loves waistcoats and also does some prop work for Hollywood. Ben Abbott is the most mild-mannered dude, but he’s also won the show twice and is really into making knives. .

I bring up Abbott last because he’s one of the more normal FiF contestants. There are some farrier who want to branch out into blademaking, but blademaking and blacksmithing is a really fucking weird hobby. For one, it’s expensive and takes up a lot of room, so the vast majority of the contestants on the show are not from urban centers. Whole lotta David Cross’ “redneck voice” on that show, even from the Alaskan contestants..

Regionalism aside, my meandering about FiF matters insomuch as there are a lot of people who are way too into viking culture on that show. My discomfort with viking culture is based on, you know, the Nazis and the recent history of white supremacists taking the vikings as their perfect society. Needless to say, I’ve seen more than one contestant on FiF with a white supremacist or white supremacist-adjacent tattoo (usually runes and iron crosses, but I believe I saw a 1488 on one dude)..

There are plenty of other weirdos on the show. There was one white dude (with a historically Ashkenazi Jewish last name) who was way too into Japanese culture, to the point of wearing a kimono and never shutting up about katanas. And, on the other side, there are plenty of perfectly normal-looking guys who don’t fetishize the Aryan Brotherhood or The Wolves of Vinland or whatever..

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The last few years have been an exercise in litigating the “art v. artist” not just for me, but for America, writ large. I grew up partially on WGCI playing R. Kelly records nonstop, so the public reckoning of his sexual abuse is something I’ve followed. I’ve loved Louis CK’s work for ages and it’s harder to watch now. Who’s canceled? Do we get to still enjoy the canceled person’s work? And on and on.

Which brings me to Myrkur. .

I came to Amalie Bruun’s black metal project when I found out that Chelsea Wolfe would be guesting on a pair of songs on her record and fell in love with Mareridt. It’s a soaring record and the record’s dynamics of it are reminiscent of Sunbather and In Utero; her gorgeous vocals are perfectly languid during the down parts and witchy screamy during the dissonant loud bits..

(I’ll also note that Bruun is a beautiful blonde Danish model who is currently pregnant and constantly talks about her “little viking” gestating. It makes me uncomfortable.).

Myrkur is controversial for a few reasons with the black metal fandom. She certainly gets a lot of dumb criticism from steakhead black metal fans for being a woman; it mirrors the kind of stuff Deafheaven gets from the same idiots. But, Bruun got some necessary heat for comments she made in an interview a few years ago about Muslims “invading Europe,” that she clarified in a later interview to say she’s not for any intolerant religious laws (including Christianity), which is some “all lives matter” stuff, ultimately.

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The fine folks at MetalSucks wrote the whole incident up in an editorial and I suggest you read it. Axl Rosenberg (with whom I’ve discussed adjacent topics on Twitter) & Co. were more forgiving than I in that piece, but, here I should clarify: I can’t, in good conscience, act like this will make me change my behavior toward Bruun’s music. .

I’m a relatively non-religious Jewish person who values my Jewish heritage as much as I value my Sicilian heritage, but I can’t keep score on every piece of art I consume. I will go to the slippery slope argument here; I have no indication that John Baizley is an anti-semite, but the Baroness song “Isak” is based on a short novel written by a mid-century infamous Scandinavian anti-semite and Nazi supporter. Am I going to stop listening to Baroness’ best early-era song? Do I drop the band altogether? I don’t know Matt Pike personally, but I do know that he has publicly voiced support for David Ickes, a notorious anti-semitic conspiracy theorist. Phil Anselmo was ironically (which is very much not a thing) racist a few years ago and Dimebag Darrell played a guitar with a Confederate Battle Flag on it. I still think that “Snakes for the Divine” and “I’m Broken” are two of the greatest riffs ever written. .

To a certain extent, I’ve stopped caring. Ethical consumption is impossible under this stage of capitalism, no matter where your politics lie. I am writing this on a computer that was assembled by slave labor out of blood minerals and I’m not going to stop because I can’t live in the world without using a computer or smartphone (I certainly couldn’t do my job). I use social media, despite it legitimately being one of the worst forces in the world in the last 10 years. Participating in society means doing a lot of bad things..

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to be ethical in our consumption. I know I try to do that in everything but art. I buy local groceries whenever I can, I drive a Prius and I’ve bought carbon offsets in my life. I only get rescue dogs. I try to do as much as I can to be ethical within the confines of a wildly unethical structure while also living in a civilization built upon the back of structural inequality and exploitation..

But, for whatever reason, art is different because it is so personal. Music, in particular, hits me in a place that other stuff does not, so I will not go for purity tests. I’ve written about the value of Burzum’s music on this site and on social media. I still listen to Ted Nugent. I listen to plenty of hip hop, which has a long history of anti-LGBTQ sentiments. I have no purity here..

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As a record, Mareridt is superlative. While black metal lyrics are hardly important — who the hell cares what “Sunbather” or “Dream House” are actually about? — Bruun’s witchy lyricism fits the sonic temperament of the screaming guitars. The tenor of her scream on “Måneblôt” fits the best type of arty horror film; it’s compelling and powerful. “Funeral” features my favorite artist, Chelsea Wolfe, guesting on a song full of spite, a lurching rhytmn and the funereal march of a prestige television show’s ending credits. “Elleskudt” has movements that move from post-metal soaring guitars to conventionally strong metal verses to a growled chorus. The song sounds like recent Deafheaven, if the boys learned how to play with dynamics more and could write a song under six minutes long. .

Bruun is undeniably hypnotic. Her voice is smooth and gorgeous and the juxtaposition with the double-bass drum and rumbling bass makes for a combo that’s intoxicating for those of us with metal tendencies and are also tired of Cookie Monster vocals. Her witch-meets-viking deal is alluring within the context of something without much depth or for someone who isn’t, uh, interested in the history of the use of vikings by Scandinavian and North American white nationalists. .

And that’s the thing: I love history and all peoples’ history is full of genocidaires, fascists, slavery-promoters and terrifically bad people. Very few of us celebrate it under the guise of history or, at least, we don’t do so and also bang around the notion that Muslims are “invaders.” Occam’s Razor suggests that Bruun is just dumb as hell; most metal musicians are super dumb (see: Metallica). But, there’s always the possibility that she’s a Burzum-esque Nazi and that fucking bums me out. .

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