With Mareridt ("Nightmare"), her sophomore long-player, Danish-born singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Myrkur (Amalie Bruun) will hopefully leave the ranting and death threats of idiotic male black metal purists in the dust. Mareridt not only bridges the stylistic diversity of her three previous releases -- the 2015 album M and two EPS -- but extends their reach into her own creative space, which cannot easily be defined. The music is grounded in an intensely personal iconography -- musical, spiritual, cultural, psychological, emotional, and mythological. These atmospheric songs are also imbued with the intense influence of the natural world.
Recorded in Copenhagen and Seattle with producer/engineer Randall Dunn (Wolves in the Throne Room, Chelsea Wolfe, Sunn 0))), etc.), these songs illuminate the most intimate aspects of Myrkur's interior dimensions. She plays piano, nykelharpa, violin, guitar, percussion, synth, and organ. She even does some "kulning" (a cow-herding call from the Swedish folk tradition that she's mastered). The title refers to a period where she was nearly crippled by sleep paralysis induced by nightmares. She learned to confront them by obsessively writing them down, then illustrating them musically.
The title track commences with a drone and kulning as thunder rumbles ominously. Accompanying herself on nykelharpa, with echo and ambience pervasively filling the backdrop, she intones the stuff of her nightmares, only to follow it with an explosion: The most overt engagement with black metal on the set is its first single, "Mneblt," complete with its blastbeats and growled vocals. However, these are contrasted with gorgeous folk fiddle, stacked, soaring soprano vocals answering the screams, and a choral layer of chants that pour in from the margins. They stream light into the darkness and combat it with the primal force of what Bruun details in her lyrics. If Kate Bush decided to pursue slow, chugging doom metal, she might choose to cover the spiritually twisted "The Serpent." Underscored by ancient myth and confessional doubt, it lays bare the protagonist's psyche. A nearly processional gothic soundscape drives "Crown," a love song to the person or thing that nearly destroyed you. Its hunted, vulnerable beauty is nearly unbearable. Wolfe appears in duet on "Funeral," riven with sweeping synth and strings, doomy, distorted guitars, and elegiac tom and kick drums. Its lyric seemingly counters "Crown"'s -- "...So I will be there at your funeral/I've been waiting for this day/So I'll be wearing white...I find my peace/When you're buried underneath...." -- by practicing surrender, grieving, and ultimately accepting the calm that arrives when discovering that certain traumatic situations cannot be altered or escaped. The set's finest moment is "Ulvinde," where it seems that Loreena McKennitt, Dead Can Dance, folk, black metal, and ambient music become one in Mykur's ambitious musicality. Mareridt is a work of atavistic mystery, unflinching honesty, and balance. It embraces everything from horror and beauty to the sacred and profane; its creator has encountered them all within, faced and accepted them, and ultimately woven them into the fabric of her being as music. ~ Thom Jurek
Paste (magazine) - "'Crown' sets off like a heavy ship into a pitch-black night before evolving into what might be the album's most easily likeable song: Its gauzy vocal melody recalls Sigur Ros."