Myrkur – Folkesange: Album Review

The dark folk/black metal crossover of Myrkur immerses us in traditional Scandinavian storytelling that has a resonance with our modern world.

Release Date: 20th March 2020

Label: Relapse Records

Formats: CD / DL / Vinyl

Myrkur, meaning ‘darkness’ in Icelandic, is Amalie Bruun’s stage name; she has a reputation of creating nightmarish fantasies which in some quarters prompted the comment ‘scaring black metal shitless’.

Lyrically, two out of twelve tracks on Folkesange are sung in English; the rest is sung in Myrkur’s native Danish tongue.

Musically there are Celtic and medieval connections in the melodies. The more familiar black metal side of Myrkur is abandoned for a folk flavoured selection of music on this sonically divine album.

On Folksange, Myrkur has rewritten traditional folk songs into modern versions without losing any of her intense nature. This was something that was pioneered in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Fairport Convention material under the creative inventions of Ashley Hutchings and Richard Thompson.  

The two English spoken compositions of Leaves Of Yggdrasil and House Of Carpenter (previously covered by the Watersons and Joan Baez) are both tragic love stories with ancient folklore linked and both with a melody reminiscent of Scarborough Fair; the former is more tranquil and piano-led, the latter more upbeat and catchy.

Songs are full of Norse mythology, supernatural stories, fairy tale and journeys to the underworld make up the vast majority of the album.

A clever layering of voices on the opening track Ella builds up strongly from a powerful unaccompanied solo adding a droned string instrumental, before the choral ending. Fager Som En Ros is a Swedish folk song, like Robbie Burns likens a man’s lover to be as Fair As A Rose; this a swirling dance-like rhythm.

On Tor i Helheim, Amalie opens with shrill kulnings (Scandinavian herding calls) leading to a simple piano and percussion rhythm and haunting strings describing a venture into Norse Hell. With its origins in the 17th century on Ramund, Amalie introduces the nyckelharpa, a Scandinavian stringed instrument.

Svea, a Swedish girl’s name, could be the accompaniment to a medieval  feast. This followed by a song which could adequately fit into a Celtic songbook, Harpen Kraft, which roughly translated means ‘the power of the harp’. Reiar, a male Norse name, seems to have more Celtic origins musically and leads into a the trance-like, spiritual Guderness Vilje , a Danish phrase meaning ‘the will of the gods’

Amalie  says: “I wrote this song about being given the biggest gift in life and then having it taken away from you.”

To complete the album, once you have been warmed by tales of Nordic lore, comes the chilling choral Vinter to  remind us of her previous frosty, hostile metal reputation before we go. The chorus follows a graceful  piano melody where you can almost imagine frost forming on rural trees, rocks and gentle streams turning to ice.

The serene quality of the music  has been described as ‘Clannad on speed’ but I think that is unfair on both as her own entrancing vocals weave into mellifluous, evocative instrumentals. To add to the traditional timbre of the album, nyckelharpa, lyre, and mandola are used in conjunction with modern instrumentation, all expertly played by Amalie.

Visions of tranquil valleys, plunging waterfalls, silvery lakes, babbling streams come to mind. It makes for a splendid background to a forest or lakeside walk, which I have done in listening to this album. It made for splendid company. I suggest you find a similar venue, fall under her spell, and disappear into the Norse mythology within.

Listen to Ella from the album here:

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