Editors’ Notes “Folk tales help us be human, they bring us guidance,” Amalie Bruun tells Apple Music. “The archetypes [of humanity] are in these folk tales, and that’s why we still listen to this music. It’s why they were passed down from generation to generation.” The Danish black metal/dark folk artist known as Myrkur (the Icelandic word for “darkness”) has always drawn on old Scandinavian stories, and on Folkesange, she focuses on them entirely. The album is half original songs, half reinterpretations of ancient stories and folk music. “Kris[toffer Rygg, producer] and I wanted to create an authentic folk record, but not a dirty museum piece,” she says. “We wanted lots of space, like being in nature, where you have the space to breathe. We wanted it to be cinematic and epic.” In her track-by-track guide below, Bruun discusses motherhood, Norse mythology, immense personal loss, and more of the stories on Folkesange.
Ella “The opening is a heartbeat drum sound. We wanted to capture that at the start. I’d found out I was pregnant three days into the recording of this album, so I was thinking a lot about heartbeats and hoping to hear one—which I did. [Falling pregnant] wasn’t planned, and nothing changed in terms of recording, but it changed me spiritually and mentally, and had a big effect on the outcome of this album.”
Fager som en Ros “It means ‘as beautiful as a rose.’ It's this traditional Swedish folk song that I've performed for years and I just adore that song. It's classic folk, and it sounds a bit evil, but it's also a romantic song about a young couple. The last verse is so sinister, about how things were in the olden days—[the couple] have to consummate their marriage in a bed in the middle of the floor with everyone watching. It’s classic, weird human behavior, right?”
Leaves of Yggdrasil “It’s an ode to Norse mythology and my Scandinavian roots. I felt like writing a modern version of a medieval Anglo-Saxon folk song, because I just love those Celtic, English, Scottish songs. Plus the lyrics are folk-tale-esque, but they're also from my own life—at the time, I was separated from my husband. It was very hard, so I wrote this song.”
Ramund “Ramund is an old Danish folk tale and one of the most famous ones here. So covering it or interpreting it is almost like, ‘You? One more?’ But I've always loved that song. The story about this arrogant warrior guy who goes against all these trolls and he ends up taking the emperor's daughter and decapitating the emperor. It's like a hero tale, a legend, but I just think it has this sense of humor and this barbarianism that I think is really great.”
Tor i Helheim “One of the sagas of the Icelandic Edda was reinterpreted in the Romantic era by the national poet of Denmark, Oehlenschläger. I love the reinterpretation, so I wanted to create a melody for it, and that's what that became. Tor and Loke go on a quest and they end up in Hel’s underworld—she’s the queen of the underworld, the personification of death. And it’s just the conversation they have with her. And they need her to help them and give them directions. All the furniture down there is made of bones and skeletons, it’s quite creepy, it’s just great. And I’ve always found there’s humor when it involves Loke and Tor. Loke is a trickster and Tor is a god, a hero, he’s also a little clumsy. And Hel, she's ice-cold, half dead.”
Svea “I wrote it on the nyckelharpa, the national instrument of Sweden. I listen to a lot of Swedish folk music, and polska is a type of folk song that they have. This is my ode to that. It’s really just the rhythm of that specific type of folk. Stefan [Brisland-Ferner] is an incredible musician, and he plays viola on it. His band, Garmarna, is a very influential Swedish folk band, and he just took it to a whole different level on the recording. We recorded it live, and his feels—the swing, the beat, where he lands on the notes—you can just tell it runs in his blood. I love it.”
Harpens Kraft “It's one of many ballads about the power of the magical harp that they wrote back then. It's another one of those subjects that just keeps coming back and you can interpret it as you will. I heard it when I was much younger, in a Danish folk song from the ’70s, and I just couldn't believe how great it was. I love that call-response thing in folk music where the choir answers me. We wanted to create this sort of ghostly environment, a ghostly feeling, especially with the vocals, to match the lyrics.”
Gammelkäring “It’s about this old wise woman of the town, a little bit of a witch; she’s respected by some and ridiculed by others. And she’s talking nonsense. It almost has a nursery rhyme feel to it for me, more than being anything serious. I just love the melody.”
House Carpenter “Since I was a child I thought this song was very, very powerful and beautiful. And as I've grown older, as a woman, I like the message of the song—but I did skip some verses at the end, where they go to Hell. I wanted to leave it more open, because [those verses] give it a Christian feel that I didn't really care to include. The story is about this woman, she probably had a decent marriage with an honest man, a house carpenter, and then she gets approached by a rich and powerful man and she gets blinded by the wealth. So she just leaves her husband and children behind. And then, of course, it doesn't go well for her. When we play it at concerts, I always say, ‘Women, you should stay with your house carpenter.’”
Reiar “It’s almost like the more Nordic, brutish version of 'House Carpenter.' The Viking version of that! He just drinks too much Brennivín, he's just a little too much, this guy. He slams the table and the whole house is falling down. He takes his wife, he takes his bride how he will.”
Gudernes Vilje “I was very reluctant to put this song on the record because I knew I was going to have to talk about this again. But it’s very important to me. And if I'm an artist, then why would I stay away from that? That's exactly my job. Before I got pregnant with the baby I have now, I lost a pregnancy. You get this gift given to you, but then it gets taken away very brutally. Sometimes the only way to survive these types of events is to accept that it's completely out of your control. It was written more or less the day the miscarriage happened. And then two months later, I was pregnant with Otto, my boy. That doesn't necessarily heal the wound, but it's something. It was difficult when I recorded the song, because I had Otto in my belly and I was thinking of this other baby that never happened. A lot of women have written to me after this came out as a single, saying they were very moved, because so many of us have been through it, but we don't talk about it. It’s like we’re afraid to talk about it or even think about it, but that only makes it harder to sit alone with this pain. And we feel very silly. How can I grieve something that never was? I’ve realized this is simply part of being a woman. It's not a sickness, but it is a burden we bear because we are the ones who magically create human beings.”
Vinter “I wrote this some years ago. I was sitting inside, it was snowing outside, and I was just looking at snowflakes and the light reflecting back. I don’t know, the song just came out. It sounded like memories, the concept of a memory, whether it was childhood or maybe it's a memory that never happened, but that's what that song sounds like to me. [The end of the album] is the only place that it could go, really. This is a very Northern European way of living, but I live according to the seasons. Accepting and respecting them is the best way to live. And winter is at the end, it closes the book. I felt that was a good way of ending the record too.”
Fager som en Ros
Leaves of Yggdrasil
Tor i Helheim
12 Songs, 47 Minutes
March 20, 2020
℗ 2020 Relapse Records Inc.
See Friends Who Have Listened to This
Set up your profile to see when friends have played an album or playlist.