THE VOID, Vol 4: The Top 10 Metal Albums of 2014 + More

Also: Jon Hadusek names the Band, Rookie, Reunion, Fest, and Story of the Year.

The Void

    THE VOID is a column that aims to explore, expose, and champion the finest in metal and heavy music. Following the template of the old Norwegian webzines that people would host on Geocities long ago, this recurring feature will include interviews, essays, opinions, reviews, and occasional live coverage in the hopes of providing a snapshot of metal culture.

    It was the year in which metal sought its own identity. The tropes of the past fell away. Heavy music moved about freely; it did not conform to old templates. There is a new guard, and these artists are just that: artists creating art. It’s no longer just beer, chicks, and Satan. Metal has become an extreme form of artistic expression worthy of being judged on its own terms and from a contemporary, postmodern perspective.

    Just look at what mega-label Relapse is doing, signing heavy but decidedly non-metal acts like Nothing and breaking their own promise of never signing a black metal act with the addition of Amalie Bruun’s solo project, Myrkur, which I chose as my rookie of the year (my Q&A with Bruun follows on the next page). Other prominent labels such as Century Media, Southern Lord, and Deathwish have followed Relapse’s lead, expanding their rosters to include artists that align with the ethos of the label rather than a predefined sound.


    As listeners and consumers, we’ve also become more open, valuing the emotion and mood of the music, and bands have reacted accordingly. On it’s latest record, The Serpent & the Sphere, Agalloch voyage into astral post-rock, which they’ve been hinting at since The Mantle; Mastodon went pop on Once More Round the Sun and made their best album in years; and Nergal of Behemoth embraced his inner demons and crafted a twisted masterpiece with The Satanist. Behemoth is considered a death metal band, but to call The Satanist a death metal record would be a sleight, because it goes so far beyond what that tag tells us. Same for Mastodon, Agalloch, and plenty of other acts to release albums in 2014. The boundaries have been smeared. It’s chaos, and it sounds wonderful.

    Next Page: Rookie of the Year

    Rookie of the Year



    Photography by Rasmus Malmstrøm, Synne Sofi Bårdsdatter.

    A mysterious one, Myrkur. One day in summer, out of nowhere, Relapse announced they’d signed this one-woman Danish black metal project. A single, “Nattens Barn”, accompanied the press release, and it sounded like Ulver had hooked up with Cocteau Twins. The track was later included on her debut EP, which quickly sold out of its first pressing.

    The songstress was soon discovered to be Amalie Bruun. She is currently recording a full-length LP with Garm of Ulver (well played!) and a host of other prominent black metal musicians. She took the time to answer some questions via email concerning the record, her artistic process, musical heritage, and homeland of Denmark.

    VOID: How and when did Myrkur originate? What was your initial muse for the project?

    MYRKUR: In a way, I could say it started when I was a child and found a deep connection to traditional Scandinavian folk music. I played mostly piano and violin and of course sang. I particularly liked girls choir music and the singer Sissel Kjyrkjebø. I also liked metal as a little girl. (I have later met quite a few little girls that also for some reason like metal, so maybe there is a deeper reason for this.) At some point, I started to combine all these different styles of music, Nordic folk music, classical music, metal, choir singing, and that is what Myrkur has become.


    V: What artists and/or albums have inspired and influenced the music you’ve written as Myrkur?

    M: Nordic composers in general, but particularly Edvard Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Ulver, Enslaved, Mayhem, Dissection, Satyricon, traditional Scandinavian folk music, and even children’s songs.

    V: There’s an insular, almost homemade quality to the recordings. Did you record the EP alone? Can you describe how you achieved such a distinct, chilling aesthetic?

    M: Homemade is the right word, since I recorded it in my living room in the house I grew up in and still live in in Northern Denmark. I have a grand piano, an amp, a couple of guitars, and a microphone. I was not going for a particularly homemade sound. I was trying to make it sound good, but this was my only option to record inside my living room on this not so good equipment. I spend a lot of time on guitar sounds of course; I like them to sound frozen and evil and perhaps outer worldly.


    Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetV: Black metal artists, much like authors, seem to prefer specific working environments and processes that help them reach a heightened sense of spiritual clarity while composing material. Regarding your own songwriting process, do you work better in a certain creative setting?

    M: Yes, this is why I have chosen to record my full-length album in Oslo. Well, also because this is where Ulver is based, who is producing the record, and all the musicians I wished to have on the album (Teloch of Mayhem, Øyvind of Nidingr, and many others). It is nice to wake up every morning and walk up the mountain to the studio in the freezing Norwegian air. My view at the moment is the actual place where Edvard Munch’s “Skriget” was painted. Norway is compatible with my heart: It is cold and pure and dark. I also like to write in my home in Nordsjælland, where I live by forest and water and no one bothers me. Many other places, people bother me and there are too many people, and it is annoying and loud with their conversations.

    V: Where do you go, and what do you do when you are stuck and in need of an artistic spark?

    M: If I felt this way, I would not try to write music. I am a quite torn person. I am interested in contrasts. I do not operate in grey areas in anything in my life. I never have. I feel both in a dream and a nightmare. Sometimes I do not wish to even pick up an instrument or even look at it. But, most of the time I write music. It is what I like to do, and also to be out in nature and feel connected to what has been lost and forgotten by many.


    V: From where do you draw your lyrical motifs?

    M: The Icelandic sagas of the Poetic Edda, from life and hatred and anger, from love of nature and what is pure, from things I cannot say in “real life,” but I am allowed to speak of through music.

    V: Black metal has always been a nationalistic genre, prideful of heritage. How is your homeland of Denmark depicted in your music, if at all?

    M: I see more Scandinavia as a whole, and that is my home. Of course, I was born in Denmark, but I am free and at home in Norway, Sweden, and Iceland. The viking countries, the origin of Norse mythology, mountains, pine forest, the Northern coast I grew up by, Troldeskoven by our summerhouse, the midnight sun in the summer or darkness almost all day during the winter. I realize I am one of few who still feels this way about my country, but I am proud of my country, and I do not wish to participate in drowning and crushing pagan Europe and its history. So, I write and sing about it and my love for it.


    V: You’re working on a full-length LP with Garm from Ulver and other musicians from the black metal scene. How will this album compare to your EP?

    M: I am currently recording it. Today we recorded Hardanger fiddle and other traditional Scandinavian string instruments with this incredible musician, Ola Henrik. And Håvard of Ulver recorded some acoustic folk guitars yesterday. I played everything myself on the EP, except for drums, so a big difference is of course that I have chosen to involve other musicians. This album will be nastier, prettier, cinematic, Nordic. It cannot truly be described or put into any genre. Kristoffer called it a weird hybrid today. Myrkur has grown into its own musical universe. But he also called it “Grieg porn,” so I don’t know, haha.


    Next Page: Band of the Year


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