Why does metal endure? Because, unlike other rock styles forged in the late 1960s, it evolves. Danish singer Amalie Bruun, who performs as Myrkur, is another of the evolutionary steps, melding the extremity of black metal with the sonorousness of Nordic folk. She took to the stage backed not by people plugged into Marshall stacks, but by a violinist, a cellist, a backing singer, plus a bassist, guitarist and drummer who came to the fore in the second half of the show. Her set-up was simple: “I’m here tonight to play some Nordic folk songs, and then some of my own songs.” This was, indeed, the rare gig populated by people in “battle jackets” — denim vests covered in band patches — that opened with a song whose chorus went “fa loo lay”.
Admittedly, her version of Nordic folk is wide-ranging, encompassing one Scottish song (“The House Carpenter”) and one taken from a Polish video game (“Lullaby of Woe”). But they were of a piece, the violin and cello generating a near-psychedelic drone that gave Bruun’s startling soprano — she hit high notes that might have summoned dogs from miles around — space to swoop around to find the melody. Forty or so minutes of that and she and the band departed, leaving the stage to flickering bulbs mounted in bare branches, before Bruun returned with just guitarist, bassist and drummer, this time plugged in for maximum velocity and volume.
One of the problems the uninitiated face with black metal is that, to the untrained ear, it sounds largely like a man shouting “Wrrroaggggh!” repeatedly over instruments played so fast they become a blur. But Bruun’s voice transformed the music. It’s not that the backing sounded any gentler, more that by bringing in folk melodies, and singing them so truly, she instilled melody where otherwise there might have been none: “Maneblot” was simultaneously pulverising and entrancing.
“I swear I had, like, 5,000 orgasms in her set,” enthused a young woman leaving the Dome at the end. It’s a moot point as to whether Myrkur’s music quite merits that, but it’s genuinely compelling, like nothing else.
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