Taking their starting point in atmospheric black metal, Murw teach us a lesson with Kanker, and that lesson is that there is room for eclecticism even in this genre. Their approach to black metal has simply generated a very original and genre-defining brand of black metal.
There are only four tracks on the album, but with song lengths ranging from seven to eleven minutes, you know that each song will take you on a journey. The question is just, what kind of journey? Are that band going to simply repeat the same tremolo-picked figures for ten minutes, which is not unusual in this genre, or are they going to to something completely different? Actually, the four tracks are very varied, and each one features several different elements and parts, and I, for one, find this extremely interesting. The main sound is black metal, as mentioned, but Murw also draw on doom metal, noise rock, and alternative rock and even a touch of jazz fusion now and then, plus the vocals are mor ein the vein of death metal growling than black metal screeching. Each song is dynamically structured featuring atmospheric doom and black metal parts along with clean-guitared instrumental breakdowns. With songs that long, Murw allow themselves to repeat figures extensively, while still ensuring a lot of variation, exposing the listener to many nuances of darkness.
At times, the band go into some pretty weird and experimental territory with a quasi-psychedelic feel to it, and a central component in this sound is actually the fretless-sounding bass (I don't know if it actually is fretless, but it sometimes sounds like that). The way that the bass is actually audible and the ostinatos and fills that Robert Duijnjam performs on his bass add a sort of spacey feel to the music and a sort of warm and soft sound that complements the sharp guitars very well. Peter Civikov's drumming is also much more dynamic and varied than what one might be used to in a black metal context (he basically stays clear of any black metal cliches, do do not expect sloppy blastbeats and things like that), and he definitely is also a central factor in the band's unique sound on this album.
While I think Murw sounds different and, frankly, more interesting than a lot of other atmospheric black metal artists, they do observe many of the conventions of the genre, such as a unpolished production, a focus on atmosphere over technicality, and the use of dissonance. But even in their deployment of these genre-typical features, they do it differently. Just check out the first parts of 'Als Sneeuw Voor De Zon' which sounds almost jazzy in its own twisted way and, despite the use of dissonance, has a strange sense of melody to it, which also applies to the indie-rock opening of 'Artificiality'.
Definitely one of the most interesting black metal albums to be released in the last couple of years, Murw's Kanker is definitely a piece of art. It is expressive. It is challenging. It is unique. If you like avant-garde and progressive black metal, you will have to check this one out.
2. Als Sneeuw Voor De Zon
3. De Buitenstaander