Myrkur – “Folkesange” (Relapse Records)
While some musicians may consider mere steps to be milestone achievements in their careers, the stellar works of Amalie Bruun are by comparison almost evolutions to be beholden by (wo)mankind. Born of love and nature but courted in controversy and even hate from some when she unfolded her dark folk / black metal project Myrkur (Icelandic for ‘darkness’), Bruun has given the metal establishment a lot to think about, and in some cases be justifiably ashamed. If you have yet to experience her previous work in albums like “M” and “Mareridt”, then prepare for a rich blend reflecting the vision, sophistication and superior talent of this Danish multi instrumentalist, composer and actress, whose prodigal capability saw her playing classical piano and violin aged five, undoubtedly inherited from her father, guitarist producer Michael Bruun, who himself attained prominence in Denmark through rockers Thor’s Hammer and Sensory System during the 1970s. Growing up immersed in folk tradition and the sun stories of Nordic legend from her parents, and fostered further by her open minded and liberal Scandinavian school teachers, folk has been a part of Bruun for a long time, so it comes as little surprise that the next twist in her own saga is “Folkesange”, a full blown folk release. Knowledgeable that folk has previously featured in her music, the difference on this 3rd album is that it seeks to release a particular aspect of Nordic folk, namely that which was suppressed by the king and Christianity in Denmark centuries ago by setting certain rules around music limiting it to church scale choral music consisting of 12 notes, whereas previously it had been far more expressive and based on a pagan way of life, thus presenting a threat to the then establishment – something that Bruun must’ve homed in on herself. Aided by producer and musical collaborator Christopher Juul of experimental folk metallers Heilung, “Folkesange” seeks to take the listener into the very heart of Scandinavian culture, almost acting as a living connector between past and present. Certainly a lofty ambition but still, it’s remarkable what this woman (and now mother) has achieved armed with only a nyckelharpa, lyre, and mandola although her most potent weapon is without doubt her enchanting voice, and is nothing short of spell bounding across the 12 magical tracks here. Indeed, as her flowing vocal melodies and unbelievable highs unfold along with her captivating instrumental mastery on ‘Fager som en Ros’, the embrace of the ancient music entrances you, taking you into a pagan past where you feel a warmth of those who never knew you, yet there is still a feeling of a connection. Less upbeat but more deeper is ‘Ramund’, with Bruun providing both a soulful pagan voice along with backing chorals and a slow violin, whose moving melancholic tones utterly melt the heart. Inspired by Adam Oehlenschläger’s “Guldhornene” on the sagas is the 7 minute epic ‘Tor I Helheim’, soloed through an angelic siren wail, which thanks to the cinematic production sounds like it’s echoing along a fjord, followed by gentle piano along with Bruun’s soft melancholic tones giving life to a heartfelt Nordic melody that only grows stronger when accompanied by the other natural instruments – truly incredible. Delicately plucking the strings on the mandola in ‘Harpens Kraft’ before transitioning to the lighter nyckelharpa and backed by slightly heavier orchestral strings, Bruun’s multiple vocal styles match in bringing soulfulness to mix with serenity with jaw dropping splendor. Moving from traditional to personal is ‘Gudernes Vilje’ (‘The Will Of The Gods’), written after Bruun suffered a miscarriage, and is actually a very light rock ballad, but given her folk weavings, comes out as such with more heartfelt wailings and sopranos as you feel Bruun’s pain, although the moving instruments and overall uplift in the song is about her somehow finding peace with the situation. “Folkesange” is a truly remarkable release, going well beyond its musical achievements, which are notable by all accounts into something far more reaching and personal. Indeed, it is an ethereal bliss touching not just Bruun’s heart but your own, and once started you will not want to leave until journey’s end.