PICK OF THE WEEK: Mur digs into migration patterns, life cycles on excellent opus ‘Heartworm’

MurPeople change all the time. We are not the same people we were last year at this time because as the days and months pass, our paths get altered. Some of us have life experiences that change us, some people pick up and leave their homes for somewhere else, and others evolve and expand their knowledge or skill sets in order to become fuller people.

Animals also do these things, but their plights are far different from ours. Their patterns of migration are annual excursions they follow, a practical regeneration with the calendar that is made up of progress, loss, and rebirth. We may not migrate as people, but we do have associations with the factors that make up animal migration, so we might be a little closer than we think. These processes are the focal points of the new Mur album “Heartworm,” and its creator Cam Sather digs deep into the land and its patterns on this stunning, amazingly naked record. The songs are raw and honest, having been recorded in an off-the-grid location in pastoral Minnesota powered by solar energy and containing just a wood stove. That setting comes across in ashy colors on this great recording that is likely to stay with you long past this season’s turning.

Mur coverSather (who also performs with Hymnal) started Mur in 2013, releasing a self-titled EP that same year, first tackling more human issues before he moved on to topics dealing with North American ecology with his first full-length “Athabasca” last year. Mur’s sound is rooted in black metal, and it often feels like it originates deep within the soil before finding its way to the surface eventually. He mixes in folk, drone, and experimental elements that all blend nicely within the body of his music. This record, much like subject matter on “Heartworm,” feels like a natural evolution from front to back, so when your trip starts and you work your way through the music, you feel as if you’ve experienced a life cycle.

We start with “Hollow Bones in the Millstone,” where winds whip in and set a chilly tone, and then the doom floor drops, and we’re on our way. Sather’s vocals lurch beneath the surface, with the music slithering slowly. Cold guitars later drizzle, with clean vocals echoing and clean melodies swirling. Later the track bursts, with the tempo hulking, and a dose of smothering chaos ending in serenity. “Cold Mountain” is largely rustic, with rumbling singing and Sather urging, “Oh my brother, show me your blood,” as the track continues along a solemn folk path. “When of Ashen Limbs” rips right open, with strong melodies sweltering and harsh growls bruising flesh. The vicious vocals meet up with mesmerizing tones, with strong soloing ringing out, and the intensity continuing to be fed. Later on, the vocals singe, while every element cascades, and the track fades into noise echo. “Migration Incantation (As Fog, As Gold)” first feeds hefty doom before dissolving into gazey melodies and a pace that continues to gain steam. As the track ruptures, the vocals turn raspy and harsh, with sounds smearing and stampeding, and the emotion wrenching at the heart. The track later turns to a simmer, as clean guitars rise, and the track slowly travels toward its end.

“Wyeth Shroud” is an instrumental that has a steely ambiance before it tears open and unloads jangling playing. The song starts to dust up, while the guitars hit a psychedelic rage, and the track bleeds into “Snakeskin on the Lake” that begins rather gently. The track feels sooty for a while before the thunder is unleashed and the music hits a frantic setting. A Midwestern vibe sweeps across the song, with the song hitting a glorious passage of burning, calming again, before ripping out your heart with its final moments. “Limbless Frozen Monarch” trickles, with acoustics blending into the mix, and the music feeling icy, like a newborn frost. Fuzzy guitars jab, mixing into dizzying doom, with the growls almost hushed and the finish trudging toward closer “Go Beyond the Sea and Still Bring Light to the Underworld (You Overrich Star!)” that totally explodes. The growls gnaw hungrily, with Sather howling, “Light, it quivers in the air, my sighs are growing heavier,” as the streams of music combine in the background and form a singular dark hue. The playing is spirited and fiery, with growls flooding the scene before the last dose of calm arrives. From there, the playing kicks up again, taking a heartfelt, massive jolt as it bleeds out, leaving behind its last tracks.

Sather is truly finding his voice and spirit within Mur’s music, and that’s pretty obvious from what he creates on “Heartworm.” There are a lot of bands employing this type of sound right now, granted, but where Sather and Mur stand out is in what comes from the creator’s heart and is slathered across his music. This is a rewarding, rich collection that can be visited each year when nature, and we ourselves, experience our own rebirth cycles.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/murminnesota

To buy the album, go here: https://murmn.bandcamp.com/

Or here (CD form, coming soon): http://fragilebranch.com/products