Since hitting the black metal scene in 2014, Myrkur (aka Amalie Bruun) has shown she is not an artist scared to follow her own muse. Over the course of two full-lengths and an EP, she has pushed at the boundaries of the black metal palette with her mix of black metal, Goth, and dark folk, her work garnering both great acclaim from some metal fans and critics and the general ire of black metal purists. Granted, she was far from the first to experiment with the sub-genre, but she had undoubtedly carved out a unique spot on the black metal landscape for herself.
Those expecting a direct follow-up to 2017’s Mareridt though will be sorely disappointed. On Folkesange, Bruun makes possibly her most daring gambit yet as she dispenses not only with the black metal element of her sound but with the metal component altogether. Instead, she has produced an album of pure folk more akin to the music Bruun has produced under her own name. Also, don’t be expecting any rock or modern elements. This is folk at its most stripped-down and traditional with many tracks being updated renditions of medieval Nordic folk ballads. The instrumentation is similarly traditional as the likes of the nyckelharpa, lyre, and mandola scattered throughout.
Curiously despite the complete lack of any metal on the record, there are still elements here that are likely to appeal to her metal fanbase, particularly the likes of Ramund and Svea. The former sounds like a Viking funeral march while the latter is a doomy, atmospheric piece which you can picture scoring a scene of an ancient army just before they head into battle.
That latter track is far from the only one to feel particularly cinematic. Similarly, Fager som en Ros invokes thought of ritualistic pagan ceremony and would not have been out of place on the soundtrack for last year’s Midsommar.
One thing this effort has in common with the previous Myrkur output is the regular shifting in tone between tracks from lightness and darkness. These range from the heart wrenching (Ella) to the rather jaunty (House Carpenter). Sometimes we even get this shift on the same track, such as on Gammelkäring, which opens with the ominous sound of crows and then melts into rising mournful strings only to be offset by the sudden burst of Bruun’s chirpily mellifluous vocals.
After this, it will be curious to see where Bruun will go next under the Mykur moniker. Will she stick with folk? Or go back to her own particular brand of black metal? Then again, if the results continue to be this thrilling and immersive, it doesn’t really matter either way.