Metal fans say Myrkur is either one of the most brilliant minds in black metal — or a wannabe poser corrupting the genre. Relying on folk melodies and instrumentation, female vocals and beautiful soundscapes to make her music unique, Amalie Bruun, who plays atmospheric black metal under the Myrkur moniker, is certainly doing her own thing.
The most recent Myrkur album, Mareridt, pushes boundaries while leaning on the aesthetics of black metal and folk music.
"It's weird, because when you do an album, the process takes so long — especially this record, because it's all based on my nightmares, so I feel kind of mentally disconnected from the record but spiritually still connected to it," Bruun says. "I'm happy; I just toured in Europe. I got joy from a lot of people hearing the music."
To write and record Mareridt, Bruun worked both in her home country of Denmark and in Seattle to collaborate with musicians who would help her achieve the perfect sound.
"The album became a conceptual record," she explains. "I was trying to get better from this sort of torture of nightmares that became increasingly heavy. It's a personal process; what I do with Myrkur is a bit of a self-reflective journey to get out of the night, to become more wholesome."
This isn't surprising, given that myrkur means "darkness" in Icelandic. As noted, Bruun has been on tour in Europe recently, doing traditional folk covers of her own music and playing Danish folk songs. While her music connects her to her roots, its heavy darkness evokes the exorcising of demons and the banishing of nightmares.
Honoring and experimenting with traditional folk roots is nothing new in black metal; bands like Ulver and Windir have made a name for themselves singing about Norwegian legends and history and incorporating folk-music influences into their brutal sound. But Bruun is too often written off as a poser, at times simply because she has worked as a model, is traditionally attractive and is a woman. Although aware of the haters, she doesn't let them stop her or stifle the music she makes.
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"I guess I just don't take it too seriously, because it isn't," she said. "It's a bit elementary-school, isn't it? It's just absurd. I'm not saying that those people who feel those feelings don't have a right to feel them; I respect the people who are passionate about the music even if they don't think there is a place for someone like me. But I will say that it doesn't matter in the bigger picture. I think for most musicians doing it, not just talking about it, music is music, chords are chords, notes are notes. I'm more interested in the connection I get with the other musicians."
Bruun is excited to start on the American leg of her tour, officially sponsored by Decibel magazine, and once again play Denver.
"I'm looking forward to playing America again," she says. "The last time I was there was when I toured with Behemoth. Of course, their fans were very intense and dedicated, so I hope to feel that again. I love to tour Europe, but there is something about American metal fans: They don’t fuck around, they live and breathe it, they care about their bands — and that kind of dedication is the stuff that makes you want to keep going."
She also has fond memories of the first time she played in Denver specifically.
"I remember mostly that I had a branch in my hair at that show. I found one out in the parking lot that I put in my hair. For somebody living in Denmark, it's so exotic to play in Denver — and always fun."
Myrkur, with Enslaved, Wolves in the Throne Room and Khemmis, Monday, February 26, Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway, Englewood.