Amalie Bruun has had mixed reviews in her short stint making music in the metal community. Garnering critical acclaim from the organic, free-range, caramel mocha chocamericano-flecked Macbooks toted by the illustrious writers at Pitchfork, she has been rejected quite forcefully by those who are truly metal with vastly superior opinions. We at Angry Metal Guy, professional contrarians and click-bait connoisseurs, generally enjoyed M and appreciated how Bruun endeavored to develop the remit of black metal, while retaining the ethereal aggression critical to the Scandinavian wave from the early-mid 1990s. Blessed as I have been by the recent glut of excellent bands playing in London, I was eager to indulge in the crushing of kvltists’ dreams by the new wave of black metal storming the community.
I had no idea who the supporting bands were, so preferred exploring the finer details of the pint glasses kindly supplied to me by a nearby pub (this, of course, necessitated consumption of said pints too). I was therefore in good spirits heading into the venue, The Underworld in Camden, and was delighted to be greeted by a surprisingly great performance by the second support act, Fen. Received well by Madam X last year, their emotional and dynamic approach to black metal served as a great appetizer to Myrkur‘s similarly fresh style.
Moving on to the highlight of the evening, Bruun’s introduction to Myrkur‘s show was the subtle piece, “Vølvens Spådom.” From these opening moments, I was absolutely captivated. Bruun’s voice, while great on M, is stunning live. Sure, the reverb used on the album was present, but there’s no falsifying true technical ability and talent in her clean vocals. Her cleans resonated from the darkened stage like a beacon of light and the overall effect is far stronger live than from the studio. Some bands can’t replicate the studio perfection live, but that scarcely seemed the point here: the band wasn’t just as good, but better, when playing live, with rawer and more powerful emotions. The melodic passages on my favorites, “Hævnen,” “Onde Børn” and “Dybt i Skoven,” really stood out and were heightened in comparison to the album.
Clean vocals aside, her shrieks were genuinely shocking. The entire point of harsh vocals is to convey greater power, amplified emotions and to disarm the listener – certainly the case here. Her witch-like style sounded evil and was a superlative juxtaposition with her ethereal cleans. The immediate transitions between the two without studio wizardry was truly impressive.
The final song, a cover of Bathory‘s “Song to Hall Up High,” made for a special ending too. Our own Grymm has been tooting this horn all year and it offered a somber, unearthly finishing note. The audience was unusually subdued in response to a closer lacking the bombastic approach many bands end on – but it just seemed rude to disturb what was a amazing moment. I can only lament that this ending came just forty minutes after the opening. This ensured that there was nary a dull moment, and I’m aware that the entire spectrum of music written by Bruun for this project barely exceeds an hour, but it was somewhat disappointing to not hear an encore.
Nonetheless, Myrkur made for a fantastic live act and any remaining doubts over Bruun’s black metal credentials were annihilated. M won’t be making my top ten records of the year but to hear it live is an entirely different experience.