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Tales From The Crypt: The Funereal Music Of Myrkur

Danish musician Amalie Bruun the woman behind the black metal project Myrkur.
Danish musician Amalie Bruun the woman behind the black metal project Myrkur.

Amalie Bruun is Danish-born musician who grew up playing classical violin and piano. It didn't take long, though, before she was introduced to a more aggressive style of music, for which the Scandinavian region is especially well known.

"When I heard black metal, I always say that I couldn't really believe that something could be so ugly and so beautiful at the same time," Bruun says. "And composition-wise, the reason black metal speaks to me is the same reason that classical music speaks to me. ... If you take a composer like Tchaikovsky, there's absolute beauty and very fragile moments, and then there's just absolute brutality and dramatics."

Bruun now performs under the name Myrkur, and in her music she's continued to explore that contrast. Her debut album, M, turns on a dime from lilting, ethereal arrangements to pummeling waves of distorted guitar and screamed vocals.

"Putting this music out is an outlet for me, so when I scream, I really do it from the inside, to get something out," she says. "It actually comes almost as natural as the other style of singing. You have to act according to certain rules, especially as a woman, and [at] some time I just decided not to, and act according to my own rules and what feels natural to me instead of everybody else."

When she spoke with NPR's Rachel Martin this week, Bruun was getting ready to play what would be Myrkur's third show ever. The venue couldn't have been more fitting.

"It's a mausoleum," she explains. "It's this artist, Emanuel Vigeland — he designed his own grave, and his ashes are in there as well, I believe. And there's no windows — you know, it's a tomb — and it's dark, and there's paintings on the walls of dead people. But the beauty of this room, besides the feeling of death, is that it has 11 seconds of natural reverb."

Bruun says she found the sound in the burial chamber so alluring that she recorded her album's vocals there — although for live performance, it does mean turning down the volume a bit. Hear more of her conversation with Rachel Martin, including her thoughts on how women in metal are (and are not) recognized, at the audio link.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.