ALBUM REVIEW: Myrkur – Folkesange

Amalie Brunn is a chameleon of the most striking, variant shades, which makes the English transalation of her of her alter-ego Myrkur (‘Darkness’) something of a paradox. That darkness, of course, comes from the Dane’s lyrical content, and frequent Black Metal incursions into the Folk-based music she peddles with wondrous feeling. New album Folkesange (Relapse Records), however, eschews the usual harsh accompaniment: focusing purely on her Scandinavian Folk roots and delivering a set of softened, heartfelt songs.

It’s the voice, of course, that draws you in. A siren song, an angelic call to the heavens, which dips and soars like Vaughan Williams‘ lark through the touching opening ‘Ella’. Jo Quail‘s mournful cello underpins the violins and some delicious harmonies, while Myrkur’s use of piano and frame drum strikes pure gold. The ensuing ‘Fager som en Ros’, like the later ‘Svea’ and ‘Gammelkӓring with their saw-like strings, is more upbeat but still enveloped in a madrigal skip, the kind you’d find adorning a Shakespeare romance: while the gorgeous ‘Leaves of Yggdrasil’ is delicately sung in English, with morose moans at once calming yet tearing at the heart.

It’s reasonable to suggest that Myrkur is even more effective without the pollution of music’s darker touches, and tracks such as ‘Ramund’, reminiscent of Wardruna‘s harder-edged laments, go some way to backing this argument. The ‘shut your eyes and drift’ feel of ‘Tor i Helheim’, with its Native American-style whoops and icicle-drop keys, is so hypnotic and immersive that seven minutes brush by in an instant: similarly, the acoustic ‘Harpens Kraft’ gambols daintly through summer fields without whimsy, but with true heart and passion for the sound’s roots. There’s enough of a ‘Jolene’ feel to the profound Country-Folk of ‘House Carpenter’ to pique Dolly Parton‘s interest, yet Myrkur’s vocal edge gives an essential quality that flattens the plaintive mewlings of the Tennessee chanteuse.

‘Reiar’s stirring chants set up the album for its closing salvo, and its most heart-rending aspects. The moving, airy refrains of the penultimate ‘Gudernes Vilje’ are Julianne Regan in her All About Eve prime, melancholic and nostalgic: but it’s the unbearably beautiful ‘Vinter’ that will have every listener in floods of tears; as if they’ve just been given a music box, its solitary dancer whirling to the strains of the first twenty minutes of Pixar’s ‘Up’. Never seen it? Trust me, you won’t cope. The tender piano, the haunting calls of the choir…it’s a jaw-dropping end to an album of occasionally staggering depth, air and sweetness, and one that provides an eye-opening jolt for Myrkur’s Metal home.

8 / 10