Swedish black metal duo Murg made a strong statement with two full lengths between 2015 and 2016, capturing the type of stunning atmosphere and icy chill of both their home country and Norway’s second-wave. Following Gudatall the band was quiet for a few years, but now they’ve returned with Strävan which continues that perfect balance between sweeping atmosphere and abrasive riffing. It’s a familiar style but Murg’s hooks work in their favor and are sure to remind listeners of why they continue to gravitate towards black metal.
Strävan keeps moving at a brisk pace, as even when they settle into a slower cadence on the lengthier tracks the instrumentation doesn’t stay in one place for too long and lets the atmosphere and intensity built to that perfect level before moving on. Murg spends a good amount of the album blasting away at your senses with riffs that feel like they’re encased in ice, but the quality of the songwriting ensures that each one uses a lead that makes each song distinguishable from the last. Stylistically the duo seems to be capturing both the early raw sound of both the Swedish and Norwegian variants of black metal, and while the production values Strävan are slightly clearer compared to its two predecessors there’s still a considerable amount of bite. From beginning to end the band blazes a path of destruction with hints of beauty beneath it, and songs like “Berget” and “Altaret” reach monumental heights thanks to their melodies. It may not differ significantly from what the band has done from the beginning but they’ve refined it down to its most potent level, with no filler or stretches of repetition diminishing the impact.
The vocal pitch remains a higher pitched scream, but it’s much clearer and easier to make out than before. Where Murg has buried their vocals in the overall mix over the past two records, here there is more separation and for the first time the screams are able to hit that same level of intensity as the instrumentals as they wash over you like a raging waterfall. It’s a move that works in the band’s favor, as while the recording may not be quite as lo-fi as Varg & Björn the album makes up for it by continually punching you in the face with one powerful verse after the next.
Murg’s explored raw second-wave black metal and stunning atmosphere since their inception, but Strävan represents a peak in their songwriting. Though there might be a bit more clarity to the recording, the aggressive and violent riffing hits just as hard and the atmospheric passages reach some of their most stunning levels yet. Though it may pull from familiar territory, Murg’s latest touches upon what made 90s black metal so special without retreading it. Strävan is available from Nordvis Produktion.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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