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Album Review: MYRKUR – ‘Mausoleum’

Album Review: MYRKUR – ‘Mausoleum’

You’ve got to love a PR blurb which starts, ‘from the darkness of Scandinavia emerges MYRKUR’. Gives you a nice warm feeling of impending doom, and given that MYRKUR means ‘darkness’ in Icelandic, it’s no surprise that this recording has its birth in black metal.

MYRKUR is the nom de guerre of Danish powerhouse Amalie Bruun, who arrived on the scene in 2014 and was immediately signed to Relapse Records after releasing a self-titled EP. One year later we get a full length album called, ‘M’ and we all sit up straight and try to take in this new angle on the black metal genre that is brim full of gothic rawness and natural power. The combination of being classically trained and a multi-instrumentalist led MYRKUR to put together an album that was immense in its scope but was carried out with such precision that it screamed ethereal beauty and isolation.

Mausoleum is a live retelling of a number of songs from M but also includes a one new song and a Bathory cover. What is unusual is that it is recorded in an actual mausoleum in Norway which is a dimly lit, cold space covered in frescos depicting the human condition. So that’s a Danish performer, with an Icelandic name performing in Norway; how Scandinavian do you want? The sonic prowess of MYRKUR is aided by the Norwegian Girl’s Choir and only accompanied by a single instrument. The songs are soundscapes that wash across the speakers and are an exercise in tone and control, disturbing and melancholy.

There is something immensely relaxing about this album. As cold and unfettered as the performance space is we are warmed by the voices, resonating inside the walls making it difficult to tell where one phrase starts and another ends. It’s a choral work, sometimes folk and sometimes ancient it has a tone that is both brutal and intensely feminine. MYRKUR’s voice is as pure and as powerful as the magical Huldra, and skips between the dark and light with ease, effortless and magical.

At this stage I normally pick out the songs and urge you to dip the virtual needle and have a listen before you make a buying decision. I’m going to forgo that path and tell you that in years of listening to more types of music than I can recall, I find it enough of a sell to tell you that this is a black / doom recording in a Norwegian mausoleum, done in an ancient folk style, supported by the Norwegian Girl’s Choir, by a woman who is Danish but has an Icelandic name and may be Valkyrie.

Probably more important, in a world replete with reinvention and carbon-copies, this is both unique and timeless. It transcends genre and does not deserve to be pigeon-holed. This album will be a challenge for some but those who have listened in to early Kate Bush, Bjork or other artists that push boundaries then this album is well worth you effort. It’s not the sort of record you would whack on at parties, but it is a worthy edition to the recordings we keep for those moments where we need to escape.

MYRKUR and Mausoleum. Miss it and you’ve made a grave mistake.

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