Danish musician Amalie Bruun is something else; I first discovered her quite recently, in a Facebook video playing an instrument called a nyckelharpa in the mountains of Norway if I’m not mistaken. From there I followed the internet rabbit hole to learn she performs under the name Myrkur (Icelandic for ‘darkness’). Her music is a mixture of bone-crushing heaviness, Nordic/Scandinavian folk music, ambient sonic terrain, and symphonic composition, and her new album Mareridt is a towering achievement.
Living up to its name (mareridt is Danish for ‘nightmare’), the album opens with ominous synths underneath a piercing cry, like shattering glass. Bruun’s echoing voice weaves up and down, twisting a foreboding melody out of the darkness. Something about not being able to understand the language results in different aspects of the music being payed attention to (there are English-language songs on Mareridt). As the record continues, it shifts into a thunderous blast beat and Bruun’s voice switches flawlessly between angelic bombast and ragged, demonic screaming.
As the music moves into more energetic territory, Bruun’s confidence as Myrkur starts to really become evident, with some catchy-yet-menacing hooks gracing otherwise doom-laden melancholy. It’s interesting how she can meld disparate elements into what is for me a new experience in heavy music. The way that level of musical brutality resolves into delicate piano and string motifs is simply beautiful as well.
Myrkur’s music definitely reaches some emotional places, and Mareridt is no exception. As I mentioned above, not knowing the words makes it easier to pick up on more emotive details in the phrasing, melody, and instrumentation, etc. Several moments of Mareridt conjured those feelings of forlorn, gray winter skies, but every now and then a bit of sunny hope would peek through the clouds. It’s very thoughtful music that moves with a deliberate purpose, every note placed just so.
In all honesty, I’ve never found music more appropriate for the word ‘haunting’. It’s moody, it’s dark, but it’s graceful and elegant at the same time; two sides of the same shadow. The droning heavy bits are offset by the porcelain acoustic portions, the lilting, harmonized vocals balanced by throat-shredding screams. The final track features some pretty chilling spoken word lyrics, just to give one more side to an already multifaceted album.
I’m a new fan of Myrkur’s material, and I am glad I got into it in time for Mareridt. It’s a lush, deep mélange of styles that produces a sensitive yet hostile, bleak yet emotional, uplifting yet melancholy, voyage into the misty otherworld of Amalie Bruun. Check out all of her music, but if you’ve never heard her stuff before, Mareridt is a terrific place to start.
Rating: 9 out of 10