The level of whinging that greeted Myrkur’s debut was comically over the top at its best and straight-up vitriolic at its worst. Accused of jumping into a scene she had no business meddling with, Amalie Bruun hardly reimagined the black metal template with 2015’s solid M, but the album certainly offered enough interesting left-turns and meandering sidesteps to earmark the Denmark native as an artist capable of something special.
And Mareridt is very special indeed. Bringing in Wolves In The Throne Room producer Randall Dunn, Amalie has expanded her vision into something that unshackles itself entirely from preconceptions, box-ticking or scene points, instead reaching for the kind of emotional, soul-stirring transgression that only the rarest of albums achieve. Where she could’ve bowed to the elitists and charged into heavier realms, instead she’s scaled back the extremity, revelling in the kind of heaviness that favours sensory impact over the hammering of guitars as she flits between English and Danish. Måneblôt is the most outwardly BM track present, its cascading swirls of blackened noise and piercing shrieks giving way to ethereal singing and smatterings of folkypercussive sections. Elleskudt and Gladiatrix both also dial up the intensity. The former is carried by a sinister level of sonic bluster that’d make Dimmu proud, but is given extra layers by Amalie’s enchanting vocals, which strike through the windswept darkness like shards of light sneaking through shadows. Gladiatrix’s sonic assault, meanwhile, is permeated by smatterings of tribalistic clatter that make it feel less like a song and more like a spiritual summoning.
Beyond that, Mareridt is an album that mostly leans closer to the earthy, gothic folk of Chelsea Wolfe than post-BM – indeed, Chelsea herself appears on the doomyFuneral, which interlocks both singers’ voices into a delirious incantation that could turn unicorn blood black. The Serpent is a menacing beast of a song that wraps Amalie’s singing in a layer of lumbering riffs and an almost suffocatingly thick layer of smoky production – a delightful foil for softwareuiphraseguid=“55a4793f-3860-4731-80bd-c23706e02c49”>softwareuiphraseguid=“55a4793f-3860-4731-80bd-c23706e02c49”>Crown, which could have been written by Lana Del Rey after becoming possessed by the Devil herself.
softwareuiphraseguid=“d380e1af-eb96-4540-a8c3-625b0ec91de9”>SOFTWAREmark” gingersoftwareuiphraseguid=“d380e1af-eb96-4540-a8c3-625b0ec91de9” id=“b14980c8-37da-45fc-aadc-426f4e85e2d9”>De Tre Piker lets Amalie’s voice take centre stage, her haunting croon underpinned by melancholic waves of synth and strings, while Ulvinde is an absolute monster: walls of tremolo guitars fighting for space with atmospheric keys, blood-curdling screams and hypnotic singing. Folky instrumental Kætteren sounds like it was recorded in the heart of an ancient forest, while finale Børnehjem is totally out of leftfield – a spoken-word track given an Evil Dead-style possessed overdub as it narrates Amalie’s battle with her inner demons (of course). It’ll bemuse as many as it enraptures, but it signifies a willingness to leave all caution to the wind – and that is exactly what surmises Mareridt at its core.
Whatever you know of Myrkur so far, know this: Mareridt is an album that demands your attention. Not since The Satanist has extreme metal presented a vision so ready to stride into metal’s wider consciousness. Amalie has created a portal into a world torn apart by light and darkness, and what is left might just be the finest metal album of 2017, and one of the greatest albums of recent times.