Wrnlrd – Myrmidon
Myrmidon (Flingco Sound, 2009) is haunted: not just by phantasmic EVP recordings of gurgled voices, and melodies that twist and float like bilious ectoplasm, but by grief and aggrievement. The song titles are largely associated with life’s origins (“Genital,” “Girl”), but the album name and much of the music connote destruction. Thrash riffs and throbbing bass give way to moans and stretches of cold quiet. Myrmidon regrows, and is cut down again.
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What I don’t like about a lot of “weirdo” or arty black metal is that it uses the freak factor of the genre as a way to cover up superficial music. This is why people who don’t enjoy Black Metal go for stuff like Striborg. Not only is it quiet and doesn’t grate on their nerves too badly, they can also fetishize it as outsider art, and don’t have to evaluate it or connect with it. I’m not worried about keeping black metal pure, but I do object to people commending things for the sake of freakiness alone. That is dishonest and condescending.
Myrmidon bears a lot of the elements that have become associated with arty black — unusual instrumentation, for example — but its weirdness is purposeful. Check out “Genital,” with its off-key, sing-song choruses near the beginning, and Ornette Colemanish saxophone solo that wraps around the close. People sometimes praise elements like this, whether they’re purposeful or not, because they mark a composition as obviously different. As a result, an album like Nachtmystium’s Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1 (reviewed here) — which is basically just eccentric radio rock — is hailed as revolutionary. On Myrmidon, however, the strange elements add to the composition, rather than distracting from it. “Genital” starts with claustrophobic riffs, allows an uneasy breath of air, then ratchets up the tension to unbearable levels. The saxophone is the coup de grâce. By turns menacing and sexual, its inappropriateness adds to discomfort rather than alleviating it.
The term black metal might be a misnomer here, in which case the prior discussion is a little misdirected. Wrnlrd‘s last album, Oneiromantical War, bore more of the genre’s musical signifiers — tremolo picking, blastbeats — although it still felt more blackened than black. Myrmidon seems to share some of black metal’s interest in history and violence, and it maintains a certain occult atmosphere, but it’s more post-punk than anything. Ultimately, this music has power regardless of what you call it.