Myrkur's Amalie Bruun Challenges Listeners to Trust Their Ears

Amalie Bruun began Mykur as a solo black metal project in her hometown of Copenhagen, Denmark. For her 2014 debut EP, she did all the vocals and played all the guitar and bass with a friend playing drums. When that self-titled EP came out, there was some mystery surrounding its origins as Bruun intentionally kept her identity a bit of a secret so that potential listeners would have to decide whether they liked it based on what they were hearing rather than on what the musicians looked like or their pedigree in the world of black metal. Bruun trusted the capacity of people to judge the music on its own terms even though she knew, ultimately if she was to perform the music live, that her identity would become known and the dynamic between herself and the audience for the music would change.

“After people found out who I [was], they [had] to question themselves again and maybe feel a little unsafe or something and I think that's what art is supposed to do to you—make you redefine your stance [on things].”

Bruun followed up her EP with the 2015 album M, for which she recruited Kristoffer Rygg as producer. The latter has certainly earned his bona fides in black metal, experimental and electronic music as a vocalist and musician in Borknagar, Arcturus and Ulver, a black metal band that is decidedly not purist and on the more avant-garde end of the genre. So he was a natural fit to produce Myrkur and he was able to bring in musicians from his circle of collaborators in the metal world of Oslo and all over Norway, including Teloch from Mayhem and Nidinger and Chris Amott from Arch Enemy. If this didn't necessarily silence Myrkur's critics, it certainly brought to the table musicians of undeniable impact in that corner of the music world.

At this point, Bruun has never played a show solo. and now has bandmates in addition to working with studio musicians but the core of the songwriting and the vision for the music has its roots in her exploring ideas and emotions in isolation. She didn't go up into a cave in the mountains or a sacred grove to write the music or anything as outlandish as that. Growing up with a musical family, including her father who is a musician and producer, Bruun learned to focus her ideas and creative impulses from an early age. Though inspired by the native spirituality and mythology of Scandinavia, which courses through black metal's aesthetic, Bruun also draws on what she has learned as a musician including her time playing classical violin. Though not the first to say so she sees no inherent disconnect between classical music and the black metal for which she is now most closely associated.

“There's a darkness, there's a beauty and technique,” says Bruun. “The chordal universe can be similar. The freedom in the writing has less restrictions than any other genres.”

Naturally not all fans of black metal cottoned to Myrkur and when Bruun's identity was revealed she received death threats and other expressions of open hostility. But Bruun doesn't let this prevent her from enjoying making the music and performing live.

“I still have to deal with it but I don't really care so much anymore,” comments Bruun, regarding her vocal detractors. “It doesn't really make a difference to me anymore. The fans of Behemoth are great. I think it's a good fit and a good pairing. I get to meet fans [when] they come to the merch booth and [they're] really great.”

Myrkur w/Behemoth, 7:30 p.m. doors, 8:30 p.m. show, Tuesday, May 3, Gothic Theatre, 303-789-9206, $20 adv. / $25 day of show, 16+.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.