Released: 2016, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Already a divisive figure in black metal circles – at least among the troglodytes who can’t seem to accept that a woman might actually want to front a band instead of just sitting back and playing keyboards or providing operatic vocals while the boys do all the heavy lifting, or some bullshit to that effect – Denmark's Amalie Bruun, aka Myrkur, probably won’t win many more friends among the haters and trolls with Mausoleum. But fuck those guys anyway.
Recorded live at the Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum in Oslo, Norway, Mausoleum, features bare bones, acoustic renditions of seven songs from Myrkur’s 2015 debut album M and eponymous 2014 EP, one new song and a stunning cover of Bathory’s “Song to Hall Up High.” She performs the material accompanied only by ex-Ulver guitarist Håvard Jorgensen, a piano and the occasional gentle harmonies of the Norwegian Girls Choir.
I can't claim to be a huge fan of Myrkur's “plugged in” work – simply because I much prefer the bigger, grander bluster of, say, Immortal, to raw, Spartan “true” black metal. But in this setting, and with this “unplugged” folk-like approach, Myrkur's music is utterly captivating, even magical.
Bruun's crystalline, haunting vocals, a frequent presence on her electrified work - though often contrasted by equally feral caterwauling when things go full black metal – are given free rein to shine here given the minimalist musical backing. And shine they do. Delicate and disarming, yet always somewhat melancholy – especially on the spellbinding “Song to Hall Up High” - her voice sends chills throughout as it echoes through the cave-like setting.
It'll make just about anyone wish they were there – perhaps even the douchebags who slag Myrkur off as some marketing contrivance. Indeed it doesn't get much more “true” than what she offers here – black metal stripped to its barest, purest essence – indeed of any “metal” at all - and delivered with a savvy, subtle and genuine hand. And in the end, that is far more effectively subversive than crude, low-fi histrionics, idiotic corpse paint and miscreant posturing.