I was just in Viljandi, Estonia, for an annual folk festival. Listening to some very medieval-sounding and borderline-metal folk-chanting over accordion that lifted the hearts of attendees with a somber and uniting flair, I couldn’t help but reflect on how so much of music could benefit from different branches being less derided and seen more as ongoing cultural development. From pop to post-metal to hip-hop, music has so many branches even within one genre.
It’s been nearly a year since Amalie Bruun shook the metal world with M, her debut LP, and more importantly, her formal unmasking as the black-metal phenom Myrkur. Originally framed as a spontaneous musical manifestation of the Nordic darkness, the Danish musician’s project has always been associated with liminality — an anonymous approach decried by some as a bit of PR sorcery. On M, Bruun quashed the naysayers’ accusations of gimmickry for good by channeling the project’s overarching intrigue into a crushing, meticulously crafted portrait of the sublime.
This set peels back the dynamic and production layers to reveal the European folk aesthetics at the heart of M's songs -- and, if we're being honest, in early black metal itself (where do you think those strange minor modal melodies and chants came from, after all). The music here is intimate and delicate, eerie, and icily beautiful, but it is also executed with authority. Check "Jeg Er Guden, I Er Tjenerne," with its wordless cascading intro -- underscored by the choral voices and the cavernous reverb of the venue -- and pronounced middle-register piano chords.
Unlike most black metal acts, Myrkur – Amalie Bruun of Ex Cops – committed the unforgivable sin of woodshedding in the deeply uncvlt realm of indie rock. On second LP Mausoleum, recorded live at an actual sepulchre in Oslo, the Danish auteur eschews metal completely, refashioning her catalog acoustically. Accompanied by piano, ex-Ulver shredder Håvard, and the Norwegian Girls' Choir, the now-New Yorker strips away intricate instrumental passages and dramatic flourish in favor of direct, oft-soaring communication.