In three short years, Danish singer-songwriter Amelie Bruun has already achieved what many fail to do across a lengthy career, and that is to create art that is interesting and distinctive. With Mareridt (Relapse Records), under the banner of her Myrkur project, she is releasing an album where there is genuine curiosity as to both how it will sound, but also whether she will be able to stride further into a more “mainstream” conscience (the use of the term mainstream being applied quite liberally here… this is unusual and uncompromising music, lest we forget).
Column-inches will be filled, and think-pieces will be thunk, but above all, and most importantly, at the heart of the storm of intrigue and interest will sit some music. Thirty eight minutes of an album that its protagonist will have poured fears, confidence, cares, joy, no end of thought and considerable talent into. And above all, while the superfluous noise flows all around Myrkur, what is most important is whether Mareridt has style and substance and, in essence, whether it is a good album or not.
And it is. It absolutely is. And in a manner that is a clear progression from M (Relapse) without losing the essence of ethereal cohesion that Myrkur is. It’s a progression that, the occasional dynamic blast aside, moves Myrkur away from the hybrid of Black Metal with haunting clean vocals into a more Gothic, Blackened post-Pop arena (as in Sigur Ros type pop, and for want of a better term).
Mareridt is not, however, without a couple of minor flaws; the closing “possessed child” narration titled ‘Børnehjem’, whatever the intention, jars and takes you out of the atmospheric world the rest of the album has created (particularly after the natural ‘Kætteren’ feels a much more apt finale) and the guitars are murkier (sorry) than they could be, particularly when considering the exemplary vocal production, but these are insignificant asides. ‘The Serpent’ and ‘Crown’ sit delicate yet proud hand-in-hand, sultry with a retro, hypnotic dusky elegance, replete with perfect vocal hooks, while ‘Elleskudt’ showcases that beautiful voice and grasp of unworldly melodies with a Wicker Man twang over a strident Viking riff, before the song dissolves perfectly into a dark coda; Mareridt is regularly lifted by shimmering, lilting vocal harmonies.
For when Mareridt is at its best is when it is juxtaposing darkness and light. The album cover is unambiguous… a pale Bruun wearing black against a white background. Following this theme of contrast, ‘Måneblôt’, cleverly placed early in the album, highlights Bruun’s effortlessly breathy, angelic timbre painting a picture of innocence as drums clatter underneath, and guitars divulge blackened riffs and melodies that operate completely separately to the voice above them, yet are, concurrently, so intrinsically interwoven with it; this is the zenith of the M sound. ‘De Tre Piker’, a pure aside of clean vocal and organic instrumentation is followed by the fuzzy, dark, off-kilter ‘Funeral’, which sees Chelsea Wolfe weave bleak and polluted, the black contaminating Bruun’s white, an interesting track that presents itself as an unfinished thought, fading away as if you’ve walked past a room and seen only a small part of a disturbing seduction going on inside; unsure where the idea began, or where it will end.
And, most interesting of all is that this all hints at Mareridt not even being the finished article, nor the end of the Myrkur evolution, and there is scope for further development and exploration in pretty much every direction. While it may be a shame if the blackened perfection of ‘Måneblôt’ is a style Bruun moves further away from, the crown as the leading proponent of darkened post-pop is, with Mareridt, already most rightfully hers.