Vulnicura abruptly hit the digital shelves last month, a rush release sparked by yet another early album leak. Hopefully it caps off a bad run for Björk – her new album documents the last gasps of her long-term relationship with artist Matthew Barney and it’s not an easy ride.

But it’s also an invigorating return to form, shaking out the unfocused excess of her past three albums and returning to her more established template of soaring strings anchored by throbbing, amorphic beats.

As the open wound on the cover art suggests, this is a very personal record. Musically, it has much in common with 2001’s Vespertine, but replaces that album’s sensual discovery of a new love with a stoic, analytical breakdown of a difficult break-up. The nine songs are broken into three parts: prior to the break-up, the months following and an undated final trio that closes the album somewhat open-endedly.

The opening song, Stonemilker, is also the most accessible, and would sound at home on 1997’s Homogenic. Lionsong grasps at hope with the chorus, ‘Maybe he will come out of this loving me’, while Björk documents the intimacy of ‘our last time together’ in the bittersweet stocktake, History Of Touches.

Vulnicura is heavy but liberating, and it’s easily one of her best.