Hard Rock Corner: Myrkur | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Hard Rock Corner: Myrkur

Out of the Shadows

Sep 11, 2015 Web Exclusive By Frank Valish Bookmark and Share


Last year, Myrkur released a blistering and beautiful self-titled debut EP, introduced in a press release, mysteriously, as the product of an anonymous "one-woman black metal project." No name was attached to the woman in question, and people started to get curious about this mystery artist with the voice that oscillates from angelic soar to demonic scream. And as Internet trolls are wont to do, Myrkur was outed. It was found out that this "one-woman black metal project" was in fact sometime model, Brooklyn resident, and Ex-Cops singer Amalie Bruun, an identity that for some seemed to be, fairly or not, an antithesis to their perceptions of black metal.

Myrkur just last month released its debut full length, entitled simply M, and while the band's website content is still without mention of Bruun's name, it hardly matters (though, respectfully, it never did). M is a tour de force mix of second wave Scandinavian black metal, Nordic folk music, and heavenly choirs of voice. Recorded in Oslo, Norway and co-produced with Garm of black metal legends Ulver, M delivers more at each extreme of Bruun's startling musical range. Case in point: the album's first track, "Skøgen Skulle Dø," which begins with near-whispered harmonic choir leading into marvelous classical music flourish of strings, and finally Bruun's vitriolic scream ushering in blistering proto-Sabbath bass and a delicious guitar riff. As a whole, M is a remarkable achievement, a mix of disparate musical worlds set within the template of black metal but reaching toward melodic peaks. It is an album that is resolute in its heaviness yet transcendent in its diversity.

Myrkur (Bruun) took the time to talk to Under the Radar about her Denmark upbringing, the genesis and development of her musical work, and what it's like to expand horizons.

Under the Radar (Frank Valish): Can you tell me a bit about where you grew up and what sort of music was in the home during your formative years?

Myrkur: I grew up in Nordsjælland, Denmark. My father was a quite successful musician in the '80s and '90s in Denmark, so a lot of the music I grew up with was his. One of his biggest songs is our national soccer anthem. The lyrics are "We are red, we are white, we stand together side by side" so perhaps that was where my strong feeling of fatherland love started. Piano was my first instrument, and then when I was five, I started violin lessons, so classical music was very present in our house as well. And traditional Scandinavian folk music I very much loved to sing and play on the violin or piano.

In many places, the full length seems even heavier than the EP. Did the longer format allow you pursue textures and feelings that couldn't be achieved on a shorter release?

I don't think it was as much the length, but more the bigger possibilities that were presented to me with the full length. Real studios, producer, engineer, musicians. I enjoyed creating the EP alone but it of course had its limitations in sound, since I'm not a professional engineer. So with the full length I got to work with high level of talent in every department. But I would not change anything about the EP at the end of the day.

How do you conceptualize what black metal is? I personally have a hard time with the different definitions and delineations within the metal scene, to say nothing of the fact that Myrkur seems more diverse than what most would consider any traditional sort of metal.

I am not eager to label myself under any genre. My music is a hybrid and has dimensions, like me as human being. You would never label yourself under a restrictive, simplified label as a person, so why should you as an artist? But I think writers and PR people like to do it, in order for people to easily digest what they're listening to and for them to have the feeling they "understand" it from a genre point of view.

It seems that your intent with Myrkur is to not be easily definable. This release is metal, it's melodic, it's atmospheric, it's classical, it's folk-based. Specifically, can you tell me about the Nordic folk element of your sound? Was that a music that you related to growing up?

I would not say that is my intent. But unlike what is expected of musicians today, I have no interest in pleasing anyone's taste or fitting into a definition of something. I don't understand why so many people are content with this one-dimensional way of looking at music today.

Nordic folk music has a special place in my heart. Since I was a child, I loved the crystal clear folk tone of the singers and the chordal universe of it. This style of music lends itself well to mix with traditional black metal I feel, and I started experimenting with that at some point and found it rewarding and challenging. 

I understand that you had the chance to work with Garm [nee Kristoffer Rygg] of Ulver on this album. Do you feel that he brought things to the process of recording the full length that you were missing on the EP?

Again, I do not feel anything was missing on my EP. I made it the way I wanted to. But Kris has become a sort of mentor for me during this process and we tend to see things the same way often. He was a facilitator for my vision and could add to it with his experience and the fact that he helped create the black metal genre we know today.

How did you feel when your identity finally came out after the release of the EP? What kind of reaction did you get to revealing yourself, and how did you feel about that reaction?

I was not trying to hide from anything. My reason for staying anonymous was that I wanted my music to have a fair chance of being judged from the music only, and not something that has nothing to do with the music.

But it is liberating to be myself fully with my supporters and I can put 100% of myself into it now.

Was the reaction different in the metal community compared to that of, say, a more indie-centric source, like Pitchfork?

What do you think? Hahaha, of course they were. The truth about me is that since you cannot limit me to a genre label as an artist or as a human. I do not fit into any of those media sources. The more skills and talent you possess, the less you have to attach yourself to someone else's definition of music. If you are "just" an indie rock guitar player, then perhaps you depend on someone like Pitchfork to accept you. I played in a symphony orchestra, I danced ballet, and I went to music schools. Those are the places I've been surrounded by likeminded people whom I connect with through their talents. When you are fortunate enough to grow up that way, you don't really think about non-musicians'/non-artists' harsh view on you. It simply does not matter. What matters to me as that the open-minded people listen to my music and get something out of it. 

It seems from the preparation I've done for this interview, that people feel like they now have to vet you for some reason, to somehow determine whether you meet their definition of "authentic," perhaps before even really and truly listening to the music. Do you feel this? I can see people being condescending, and I'm wondering if that's happening or whether that's something I'm just imagining.

You'd have to ask those people. They think something about me. I don't think about them at all. They are faceless, nameless Internet people who can get in line with all the others. Every artist gets criticized one way or another, and between writing, recording, rehearsing and performing, it is hard to do something about strangers' opinion about you as well! There are only 24 hours in one day. 

Do you feel that the intention to remain anonymous was affective? Did it allow you space to create without judgment? Or do you feel that people's finding out your identity compromised things or made it more difficult for you to feel the freedom to create in the manner you wanted to?

I would not change a single thing about the way I released my EP. It was overwhelming to see such incredible response combined with the angry ones. My supporters have gotten tattoos of my logo and they create beautiful fan art. That is what I focus on. And then after a while I got to work with my heroes from Ulver and Mayhem, and continue to do so. I would have never dreamed that these things would happen.

Is there any conscious intention for you to bring black metal out of the shadows (no pun intended) and expose a wider audience to this music? The album seems to me to have a wide appeal, even beyond metal circles.

There is no intent behind it, but if that is what ends up happening I have no problem with it. Metal, in particular black metal, deserves respect and recognition on the same level as other music genres. Musically, it is art and today it does not need to be reserved for a certain type of person who does not want to share it with the rest of the world, even though he himself can't play an instrument.

Also, if this is the case, have you seen (or do you expect to see) any backlash from metal circles?

Many of your questions are about negative things, reactions, backlash, etc. You must understand that I do not spend any time thinking of these things or living accordingly to other people's reactions to me. If I did, I would not be where I am now doing this interview with you. I mean no disrespect to you, but to your question, once I again I have to answer: I do not care.

(www.myrkurmusic.com)



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January 2nd 2016
3:27am

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