Mar 072011

(NCS contributor Andy Synn joins us again with a look back at the music of Myrkskog.)

Hello ladies and gents. This edition of The Synn Report is going to be somewhat shorter than usual as I’ve also been focussing on getting one or two reviews done as well. Not to worry though, the next edition will once again be a lengthy and comprehensive retrospective (truth be told, next week’s band was originally intended to be this week’s band, but their discography is longer and a lot harder to define than this one, so I’ve gone for the easy option this time around!).

Forming in 1993 in Drammen Norway, Myrkskog fuse rampaging death metal brutality with the bleakness of black metal and the harsh clamour of industrial elements into a focussed, unstoppable killing machine. Their first release, Deathmachine, was an intense powerhouse of wall-of-sound industrial noise, blackened melody and death metal power. Second album Superior Massacre saw the band pursuing a more death metal oriented direction (partially due to the departure of guitarist Savant M) which paid tribute to the Floridian death metal sound, albeit still incorporating some darker, black metal tones and underlying, inhuman synths.

The band’s notoriety is partially down to their connection to Zyklon, the post-Emperor project of Samoth and Trym, effectively a continuation of Myrkskog’s musical legacy and featuring both Destruchthor and Secthdamon of Myrkskog. Early guitarist Savant M also went on to form the militant industrial black metal outfit Disiplin after playing his part in the recording of Deathmachine. However, you may or may not be aware of the members’ more high-profile positions in some legendary extreme metal acts, as drummer Secthdamon played bass for Emperor on their recent reunion dates and guitarist Destructhor has served time as a touring guitarist for 1349 and is currently a permanent member of Morbid Angel. (more after the jump . . .)

Deathmachine – 2000

Opener “Discipline Misanthropy” begins with a short sample before exploding into an overpowering, steamrollering riff  deployed with a sharp, blackened guitar tone. One must truly marvel at the resilience and stamina of drummer Secthdamon as he blasts and rages away on the kit at truly extreme velocities for the majority of the song, whilst the vocals deliver bleak, misanthropic pronunciations using a raspy, mid-ranged style. Thankfully, the band is careful to temper the extremity with a catchy, groovy mid-section which acts as a short respite from the barely controlled chaos of the rest of the song.

“Hate Syndicate” is built around a discordant cyclone of dizzying notes and subtly anti-melodic leads, but also finds time to vary the formula somewhat via the introduction of more prominent, droning synth lines and machine-like, crunching samples. The vocals also vary into a much deeper, guttural style helping to emphasise the cybernetic, industrial death metal sound of the song.

“A Poignant Scenario Of Horror” exploits the raw power of Secthdamon on the kit right from the outset, blasting away at a frenzied pace whilst the buzzsaw guitars and eerie background synths assault the listener’s ear-drums. The verse riffage is of a particularly blackened calibre and the band are not afraid to use dark, off-putting lead melodies to add character to the music without diluting its heaviness.

“Synthetic Lifeworm” begins with a dark, thrash-influenced intro, interrupted by a bleak sample intoning “Welcome to the human race…”, before the band explodes into high-speed blasting fury and serpentine, Morbid Angel-esque riffage. The all-out assault upon the senses is broken up by a disconcerting, reverb-drenched moment of calm in the eye of the storm, before once again being swept up into a combination of monolithic grooves and grim, funereal lead melodies. The song concludes with a screeching dive-bomb back into the band’s traditional blackened death metal onslaught.

“Syndrome 9” is a song that takes blast-furnace intensity death metal, augmented by prominent synth textures, and balances it with massive, heaving swells of punishing groove. Hooks and piercing harmonics punctuate the song throughout, the band also exploiting an interesting stop-start dynamic that allows Secthdamon to demonstrate his agile playing and stamina, before the song concludes with a slow, grindingly heavy outro.

“Morphinemangled Torture”  and “Deathfare To The Devil” are the most blackened songs on the record, the former having a pronounced Annal Nathrakh vibe, although its vicious black metal approach is offset by some monstrous slabs of death metal riffage, while the latter also places a greater emphasis on bleak, dehumanised tremolo melodies and cyclical, hypnotic riffing, albeit delivered with a more precise, technical death metal flair.

“Deathmachine” commences with a ferocious growl, leading into a very industrial, mechanical feeling series of unrelenting drums, razor sharp riffs and inhuman, layered vocals. The prime slab of catchy death riffage introduced at 1:37 is quickly superseded by a raging blizzard of all-out extremity, recalling the sheer, almost inhuman intensity of Hate Eternal.

The album concludes with “Pilar Deconstruction”, a strange industrialised remix of “Syndrome 9”, incorporating skittering beats and twisted guitar loops into a song that is as eminently danceable as it is inhuman in both construction and execution.

My personal favourite of the two albums, due to its particular unique and disharmonic vibe, Deathmachine is perhaps almost too unrelenting for its own good, the sheer overwhelming power of the production and extreme instrumentation always threatening to bury the nuances of style and structure that the band have been careful to incorporate.

Sample Song – Synthetic Lifeworm

Superior Massacre – 2002

On first listens, Superior Massacre as an album lacks the sheer overwhelming intensity of Myrkskog’s debut. A reduction in the incorporation of the black metal and industrial elements in preference for a more full-fledged death metal sound has ramped up the similarities to the gods of Floridian death metal, although the band never come across as derivative or limited in scope. The more organic production sacrifices some of their initially uncompromising intensity for a more bludgeoning form of human brutality, whilst the lyrics have moved away from being purely misanthropic to cover more violent and blood-soaked themes.

The simply named “Intro” sets the scene for the album, unsettling synths and whistling winds exploding into a horrifically distorted squall of noise and barely audible sub-human mutterings.

“Domain Of The Superior” introduces the new sound of this second Myrkskog album, the production less overwhelming but the guitars a little sharper and the style closer to prime American death metal, with a more clinical, refined edge. The vocals, now provided by guitarist Destructhor, are more consistently guttural, although paradoxically the drum production seems more artificial in the absence of the prominent industrial edge.

Extreme death metal at its finest, “Detain The Skin” is a technical tour de force, screaming through in a torrent of discordant notes and blasting drums, whilst “Trapped In Torment” has an even stronger Hate Eternal vibe, matching machine-gun snare blasts with stunning bursts of atonal lead guitar, before a subdued bridge of restrained guitar chords and dismal spoken word vocals leads into a martial, chugging riff and a short, squealing guitar solo.

“Indisposable Death” begins with a warped, semi-industrial, inhuman guitar line before a deceptively mid-paced, repetitive main riff stomps into view atop some furious drumming. The multi-tracked, demonic vocals accent the weaving tremolo lines and the whirlwind, technical riffage. A horrific, dive-bombing lead line descends into a staggering, lurching bridge riff, augmented by blazing guitar sweeps and complex kick-drum patterns.

“Over The Gore” is a much more blackened piece of work, demonstrating surprising subtlety in the layering of driving rhythm guitars and twisted leads and the use of calculated, precise breaks in the storm of extreme playing. The gravelly, grooving verse riff is accented by distinctive drumming and powerful, tormented vocals, whilst a bleak, finger-bleeding solo (complete with mournful, melodic closing refrain) contrasts the all-out aggression of the rest of the song.

“Blood Ejaculation” has a sound and execution that recalls prime-era Suffocation, albeit with a greater emphasis on speed and a more grandiose sound and scope of instrumentation. The catchy-as-hell riffing is interspersed with moments of lightning-fast speed and sludgy, elephantine heaviness.

“Utter Human Murder” begins with a dismal, doomy intro whose slow build is pregnant with the promise of pain yet to come. This growing tension is eventually broken by a tempestuous storm of difficult, mesmerising riffs and intricate drum patterns, this calculated use of force paving the way for a maddeningly chaotic solo and a sequence of dirty, staggering chords.

“Bleeding Wrists” slams into action with layered vocalisation of tortured screams battling monstrous, sub-human growls, preface a paint-stripping introduction which gradually mutates into a jagged main riff, all spiky discordance and malignant melody. The drums are unrelenting, varying from fast to stupidly fast, with little time for compromise or weakness.

Final track, the rather simply named “Outro”, is a teeth-rattling, ear-splitting cacophony of painfully distorted signal noise and unnerving, fuzzy ambience that concludes the album on a distinctly unsettling note!

Although less extreme (relatively, at least) than its predecessor, the album evokes a more human sense of horror and degradation, introducing a more gory and brutal form of deathly aggression into the band’s sound, which is no more organic and rotten than the cold, mechanical pandemonium of their previous record.

Sample Song – Over the Gore

Recommended For Fans Of: Morbid Angel, Zyklon, Hate Eternal

  3 Responses to “THE SYNN REPORT, PART 7: MYRKSKOG”

  1. Andy, thanks for turning me onto this band. I hadn’t even heard of them before you sent in this piece, but I listened to both albums yesterday, basically in a loop while I was doing odds and ends. So damned good! Like you, I prefer Deathmachine, but both albums are superb. Speaking of deathmachines, I think that’s what you find when you look up Secthdamon in the dictionary of metal. Unbelievable execution. Major guilty pleasure for me (except I don’t really feel guilty): “Pilar Deconstruction”.

  2. Glad to see Myrkskog get some attention, massively underrated band. Not sure I can pick a favorite between the two albums, I play them about equally and find them both to be amazing. I really wish that they’d make another album as I’ve found the latest releases of all bands they’re otherwise involved in to be inferior to anything they released as Myrkskog.

    • Destructhor joining Morbid Angel seems to have put a kibosh on any new Myrkskog for the foreseeable future. Which is unfortunate.

      Although perhaps it’ll exorcise some of the Floridian influence which permuated the second album. Or maybe it’ll just enhance it. Who knows.

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