by Phil Freeman
Danish singer-songwriter Amalie Bruun, who records as Myrkur, is back with her second full-length album, Mareridt (get it from Amazon), following 2015’s M and 2016’s Mausoleum, an acoustic live release recorded with a women’s chorus. As ever, her music is a blend of black metal and Scandinavian folk, with elements of Goth and more traditional rock thrown in. She’s always welcomed collaborators; M featured Håvard Jørgensen, formerly of Ulver, as well as Teloch from Mayhem and Christopher Amott of Arch Enemy, and was co-produced by Kristoffer Rygg of Ulver. Mareridt features more guests than ever before: Aaron Weaver of Wolves in the Throne Room plays drums on most of the album, while Andreas Lynge of Danish death metal band The Cleansing, and William Hayes, who also plays with Wolves in the Throne Room, add guitar. Unexpected instruments like contrabass, mandorla, and jew’s harp also pop up. Bruun herself plays guitar, piano, nyckelharpa, violin, keyboards, organ, and percussion.
Bruun puts black metal sonic tropes to interesting uses. Taking a typically frosty, distorted guitar sound, she plays a lively folk melody on “Månebrôt,” creating a weird hybrid form that’s close to shoegaze or ’90s alternative rock, particularly when the vocals come in—they seem to float on a cloud of reverb, despite being miked in such a way that her sharp inhalations punctuate her lines. That’s one of the few times when anything like a black metal riff can be heard anywhere on Mareridt, though. Most of the time, the music is slower and more expansive.
On “Crown,” Bruun sings at the low end of her range, and in English; as a result, she sounds uncannily like Lana Del Rey. When she leaps into a higher, breathier range, backed by echoing piano, mournful strings, and background groans of organ and distorted guitar, the impression is even stronger. “Funeral” features a guest vocalist, for the first time in the project’s history. Chelsea Wolfe, a kindred spirit whose own albums Abyss and Hiss Spun are imposing piles of post-metallic noise and Gothic gloom, takes the lead, and may have written the lyrics, too: “We don’t see eye to eye/So I will be there at your funeral/I’ve been waiting for this day/So I’ll be wearing white/At your funeral,” she croons darkly, over a doom metal riff that crashes like waves on a winter beach; Bruun harmonizes like a ghost.
“Kætteren” is the track where the Scandinavian folk influence is most apparent; it’s a short instrumental featuring violin and jew’s harp, very pretty but also too short. The track which follows, “Børnehjem,” is the last on the regular edition of the album, and its weakest by far. Bruun moans background harmonies as a little girl talks about demons living inside her; it should be scary or depressing (it sounds like she’s talking about being molested), but it’s just goofy.
The deluxe version, available digitally and on vinyl, contains five bonus tracks; it kicks off with “Death of Days,” another English-language song and another Lana Del Rey imitation. “Kvindelil,” a second collaboration with Chelsea Wolfe, reverses their roles; Bruun sings lead, and Wolfe backs her up, over a bed of organ, hissing noise, and haunted-house piano. Mareridt goes by fast. Most of the songs are three minutes long, or less—”Crown” is the longest, at a mere 4:56. Even the deluxe edition lasts under an hour. But with the exception of “Børnehjem,” it’s a potent statement by an artist who’s operating by her own rules.
Stream Mareridt on Spotify: