For very unfortunate reasons, Myrkur remains a controversial artist. Being the brainchild of Amalie Bruun, the black metal project has faced intense scrutiny for deviating from the norms of the genre, despite other artists like Ulver (whom have collaborated with her several times) or Alcest getting praised for similar irreverences. While the backlash that targets her for her gender might have dissuaded other artists, she has instead trudged on and pushed back even further. Mausoleum is partly reinvention, but also partly defiance. Taking the songs from her debut full length, M, and rearranging them with a haunting choir, Myrkur is firmly walking the steps towards post-black-metal greatness.
M was haunting enough as it is, combining Amalie’s ethereal singing with melancholic composition. With Mausoleum, she doubles down on the vocals to magnify those themes. The inception of the album is simple yet ingenious. While on tour, Myrkur was posting videos of her singing in areas where she found the acoustics to be pleasant, and they always sounded fascinating with the reverb bringing out the character in her voice. Drawing on those original improvisations, she has lent the same reverberations to her original compositions, drawing out their haunting qualities.
In addition to acoustic rearrangements of her songs from M and her “Den Lille Pigges Død” single, on Mausoleum we have one new song, and a Bathory cover. It also features piano, guitars (by Havard, formerly of Ulver) and the Norwegian Girls Choir, recorded live in an actual mausoleum in Norway. While the setup and premise for “authentic” and “heartfelt” albums like this can often feel contrived and intentionally manipulative, Mausoleum manages to have a transcendental quality. Perhaps because the original material was already enchanting or because something about the acoustics of the venue capture the music in their own unique way, Mausoleum is uplifted from the usual gimmick of acoustic albums to greatness.
The singing is of course excellent. Not many singers have the voice or gravitas to be able to pull something like this off. While Amalie does most of the work, the effect of the choir is also undeniable. Combined with other instruments, they create a lush yet dense soundscape. Amalie’s voice both complements and contrasts this, either by singing softly in unison or piercing through with a powerful falsetto. While melodies are often recognizable from the original songs, they’re also changed enough to be their own new versions.
Overall, Mausoleum is a successful experiment. Rearranging black metal to be sung as a choir backed by acoustic instruments in a mausoleum works surprisingly well; though maybe part of that also owes to the quality of the original compositions. Myrkur’s voice is impeccable and carries the whole thing. Similar to Alcest, we have a legitimate black metal artist exploring the boundaries of the sound and pushing it to see where else it fits. It’s also good to see that’s she’s continuing forward despite the backlash. For fans of Myrkur and for those who want a different take on a black metal formula, Mausoleum will be a great experience.
Myrkur’s Mausoleum gets…