The best music is often heard at live shows, yet most live recordings leave me yearning for studio versions of the songs. It’s not for lack of effort; it’s nearly impossible to capture the special magic between artist and listener that occurs in the sacred show space. Few live albums have ever mastered this (Nirvana Unplugged, The Allman Brothers Band Live At the Fillmore East). However, Mausoleum, the latest creation of Danish composer MYRKUR, can now sit on the list of greats – certainly not at number one, but definitely a stellar live record.
Mausoleum is a stripped-down version of Amalie Bruun’s (MYRKUR) debut album, M. There’s no scraping guitar or distorted feedback – just Bruun’s ethereal voice accompanied by piano, acoustic guitar, and the mystical Norwegian Girls Choir. The album was recorded in the historic Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum, dimly lit by burning candles for the performance. Surrounded by dramatically morbid murals, Bruun’s soprano voice echoes through the cavernous space and illustrates her musical power. As a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and composer (yes, she is all of those things) any flack or skepticism she may receive for being a one-woman black metal band dissipates with this album. The eerie, yet wonderfully dense collection of nine songs teeters between spiritual and sadistic. The melodies sound like rituals that have been performed for hundreds of years, and Bruun is the captivating, mystical folk legend leading it all.
The word ‘myrkur’ simply means darkness in Icelandic, however, Bruun’s music is far from one-dimensional. Her voice packs a mean punch; it’s delicate yet strong, and always hauntingly beautiful. Her influences stem from nature, Scandinavian folklore, and Norse mythology. Bruun states “I always dreamed about becoming a Huldra, an Elver girl, a Valkyrie, the goddess Freja. These powerful women in Norse Mythology have an element of beauty and mystique, but they are also deadly.” We must commend Bruun for achieving this transformation in Masoleum. While putting her spin on the genre, she is clearly very knowledgeable about the history of black metal. Norway has a strong black metal community, so Oslo was the perfect geographic choice for recording (the ancient tomb was also a nice touch). That said, recording in a mausoleum is simply a choice of setting – doing it well is what makes Bruun’s voice one to be heard. In the male-dominated world of music, it becomes all too easy for a pretty face to be associated with a marketing play. Bruun’s unique perspective and ability to bring her cryptic vision to life (yet again!) will continue to redefine and shape black metal music, as well as, most importantly, inspire more female artists to step forward.
Mausoleum was released on August 18th, 2016 by Relapse Records.