Last updated on 1 January 2021
Myrkur, the outfit that messed up the comfortable, tremolo-laden life of many a Black Metal addict over the last years. A band led by a female better known in the pop multiverse. And without any metallic credentials to her credit.
Amalie Bruun truly followed her very own instinct to the fiery metal pit. Her metal persona features a mix between ethereal folksy parts and disturbing metal screams on a bed of tremolo. Just go ahead and twirl M, you’ll understand what I mean. Then follow up with the somewhat unhinged Mareridt. A piece that defined Myrkur better than its predecessors ever could.
Needless to say that this netted Bruun a pretty hefty hate attack. With their mutual blackened beards out of joint and corpse paint in disarray, a gazillion of black-clad, enraged Black Metal adepts launched a perpetually ongoing shitstorm at a sustained level of virulence that I have seldom seen to date. Being territorial is one thing, but needlessly beating up the freedom of artistic creation, because it does not fit the confines of the little box you’re in, is quite another.
Now, Myrkur is back with Folkesange. A true folk piece with nary a whiff of black nor any trace of metal. You’ll get a pretty sturdy selection of Scandinavian folk songs instead, with a little pagan flavor mixed in.
Not possible, you say? Well, Black Metal adepts going full Pagan or Traditional Folk are not unheard of. Remember Gorgoroth? Gaahl together with Einar Selvik went ahead and founded Wardruna. A Pagan Folk outfit quite similar to Heilung, and a highly successful one at that. Paganism, Folk, and Black Metal do have a pretty tight connection after all.
But this is also why I do not quite trust this outfit with Ms. Bruun at the helm. You never know when this thing goes off like a hand grenade all of a sudden. But fear not, Myrkur will this time venture nowhere near anything metal, blackened or not. Albeit that I detected a murky darkness lurking underneath all that folksy stuff.
And it’s all very subtle. Starting with the slightly disconcerting Scandinavian Heidi in the style of the early ’40s fraulein on the album cover, to that high pitched wailing that stretches just a few moments too long. Down to the frugal, almost simplistic use of instruments. There’s a foreboding around Folkesange that lurks just below the surface, never to see the light of day.
But the scarce use of instruments will also allow Bruun‘s vocals to bubble to the forefront. And indeed, the record solely focuses on her and those pretty snazzy interpretations of age-old and newer folk songs.
And that’s a good thing.
You’ll get the gist of the record already with Ella, the first track. With no intro to steal time, Folkesange directly steps into the misty light of some sort of trance-like sound nirvana. I was sold with this first song already. The way the strings and drums kick in after about a third into the track is just stunning. We’ll even forgive her for the lengthy yodeling that – at times – sounds a lot like Dolores O’Riordan.
The tracklist features many traditional Scandinavian folk pieces. None of them bad and all with that distinct Myrkur stamp on them. Full-bodied depictions of tunes that the crew here thought were covered to death by too many interpreters a long time ago already.
But hey, Folkesange continues with Fager som en Ros and its subtle choir. Or take the enjoyable Tor i Helheim with its hypnotic, almost ritualistic pull. Even if Bruun truly playing Heidi on psychotics at the beginning, with that disturbing wail, goes well overboard. And the RMR deck crew really fancied the pagan taste of Leaves of Yggdrasil. One of the darker pieces of the record.
We just got a kick out of the slightly country-ish flavor of House Carpenter, done with a subtly elastic voice. This is no new song, of course. But that’s where Bruun starts to rub shoulders with interpreters like Joan Baez and her 1969 piece. In the midst of many others, young and old.
Some better censorship may have been in order towards the end, though. That is where a lot of the energy somehow leaked out into space. So – as often is the case – a stringent selection of tracks may have ended in a much more powerful delivery. But – alas – now those last tracks only pull the rating down on an otherwise excellent piece.
Yet, in the end, Folkesange gets you a slightly spicy and somewhat pig-headed jambalaya of folk songs. Expertly manufactured with Black Metal firmly out the door, but always so very Myrkur that we will never confuse them tracks with anybody else.
A full-bodied, eclectic, and truly enjoyable record that always makes you come back for seconds. Even if we may have returned to that particular well a few times too many.
And there’s always this ominous foreboding, that lurker in the darkness. Myrkur is being Myrkur, make no mistake – and it’s there somewhere. But we never expected anything else, didn’t we?
Ed’s note: And the record successfully made it onto the 2020 Top 10 Records. Congrats!
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