Murg- Varg & Björn

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, May 31, 2015

Nordvis has been a regular source of quality Swedish black metal since the label’s creation over a decade ago, and one of their latest signings is Murg. Not much is known about the duo other than the fact that they are from the rural mining areas of Bergslagen in Sweden and have written material that channels the traditional second-wave black metal style. Their debut full length Varg & Björn (which translates to Wolf & Bear) is a concept album based around mankind’s failures to co-exist with nature, and while it flies by fairly quickly at thirty seven minutes the songwriting provides that familiar chill and harsher aesthetics that are sure to make an impression on genre devotees.

After a very short introduction the instrumentals launch right into an aggressive assault with tonality that immediately brings a number of Swedish and Norwegian black metal bands to mind. While Murg has been influenced by quite a few of the second-wave acts their debut has a slightly more polished production, allowing the nuances of the guitar riffs to break through the layers of noise. It’s certainly a familiar sound, but the group is able to pull it off on Varg & Björn that comes off feeling a bit more authentic than some of the other modern acts that have attempted to channel these types of ideas. What works to Murg’s advantage is their ability to relentlessly attack the listener with waves of distortion before backing off ever so slightly to let the much colder, bone chilling melodies seep in and take over. Songs like “Grannen är din fiende” take complete advantage of, bludgeoning the listener with fast riffing but still providing soaring melodies that have a distinctive atmosphere that sucks you right in. It’s not terribly far off from what Taake’s been doing for many years, though that’s not to say that this group is heading down the same exact path as that group. However, despite the strength of many of the leads on Varg & Björn with the shorter album length it sometimes seems like some of them are cut off a bit too early and could have been given the chance to expand a bit further. With some of the sweeping distorted melodies the band is making use of it could work to their advantage to write even lengthier pieces, and it will be interesting to see if their songwriting heads in this direction or not further down the road.

While black metal vocals are all over the map these days, the performance on this album is much closer to what I’d associate with some of the most noteworthy bands in the genre. This means that the primary style is a higher pitched shriek/scream that hits extremely hard and is capable of sending chills down your spine. Since Murg has slightly clearer production values the screaming is one of the most prominent elements and often adds that extra blast of energy to each song, but it never completely overpowers the material to the point that you won’t be able to make out the instrumentals because of it. The higher, abrasive ranges tend to be the type that I prefer the most for this type of black metal and it is executed here in a way that is truly convincing.

With the limited amount of information available about Murg it’s unclear if they’re established veterans from other groups that have come together for a new project or relative newcomers, but whatever the case may be Varg & Björn is a strong debut that does the second-wave black metal sound justice without feeling like a mere retread. There remains room to further expand some of the chilling atmospheric leads even further, as a few of the shorter pieces seemed to fly by a bit too quickly without completely sticking with me, but aside from that minor criticism this is a release that is worth getting lost in. This duo strikes the perfect balance between icy atmosphere and violent assaults, and considering they’ve already started off at a fairly high level there looks to be even greater things on the horizon.

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