If Aurora is the Earth’s optimism, Myrkur has always been its anger. Since Amalie Bruun sent the black metal world into a frenzy with her mix of otherworldly howls and atmospheric headbangers, she’s been accompanied by a darkness haunting her extreme music, like a raging Anna Von Hausswolff.
On Folkesange, her third full-length record, all trace of metal is gone, replaced with unplugged folk. Yet there’s a kinship here: Bruun’s music as Myrkur has been defined by its ghostly textures, leading one YouTube comment to christen her Lana Del Wraith. There’s a sense that any genre Bruun chooses for her project would result in the same aesthetic, one that’s doused in shadows and ultimately sad.
Here, instead of channelled through anger, there’s a sense of the forlorn. With many of these melodic tunes sung in her native Danish, her voice tells stories through its lilts and cadences. Epic centrepiece Tor i Helheim sounds like a story, each verse following the same rises and falls, signifying the universality of music where we as listeners are attuned to how we expect to be told a tale (and indeed, it recounts a passage from Iceland’s Prose Edda).
Opener Ella, with its sorrowful keys, strings like rainclouds and percussion straight from a funeral procession, may well be Folkesange’s overture. It sets the formula of repetitive melodies over acoustic instrumentation, adjusting to Bruun’s gorgeous voice for once allowed to soar instead of scream through a maelstrom. Sometimes it even dances over her accompaniment like on Gammelkäring and Fager som en Ros, the latter the album’s most upbeat moment, sounding like a communal jig round a bonfire.
As if to highlight how many old tales fit alongside each other regardless of their origin, House Carpenter, descended from the Scottish folk song The Daemon Lover, is a worthy companion to these Scandinavian legends. One of few tracks in English, Bruun’s vocals are clear and narrative, emphasising the storytelling aspect of music over the searing dynamics of her previous releases.
Folkesange is impressive: Bruun plays every instrument on the album. But not only that, she’s effectively bridged genres without compromising any of what made Myrkur so captivating. It’s always been cinematic, with the project’s visuals complementing and colouring in its sounds. It’s why Folkesange is as much for fans of Heilung and celtic folk as it is for fans of The Witch and Midsommar. Bruun has already had a dynamic career in the space of three albums, and there’s a feeling that from here, she can go wherever she wants and everyone would follow.
Folkesange is out today, via Relapse Records