Captured live at the Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum in Oslo, this new live effort from Danish vocalist Amalie Bruun, who performs as Myrkur, defies and exceeds expectations. That her mysterious 2015 album M arrived under the guise of black metal will come as a shock to anyone who hears this record piped over the sound system at the local steep and brew or independent book emporium. The second coming of Mayhem this ain’t. Then again, as Sophocles once said, what could be more black metal than doing whatever in the ragnarock you want?

That the material is essentially stripped down to a piano, acoustic guitar, Bruun’s voice and a girls’ choir does nothing to halt the haunting quality of the music. Nor does it detract from the sonic gravity. Pieces such as “Jeg er Guden, I er Tjenerne” and “Onde Børn” become especially vibrant in this setting; the ethereal vocals and rugged melodic shapes are as potent now as when accompanied by darkwave synthesizers and nail-studded, distorted electric guitar lines.

There’s another thing that changes in this setting: the material becomes more somber. “Byssan Lull,” for instance, takes on a ring of the ancient, sounding like a child’s lullaby from hundreds of years ago with all the lurking darkness and lyrical sorrow that that implies. There is grief in the intervals between the notes and one feels as mournful as entertained. “Den Lille Piges Død” proves equally dramatic and beautiful.

If there is a fault to be found with the record it may be that when these songs, reliant on a full range of dynamics from those aforementioned loud guitars to the gentleness of Bruun’s voice, can sometimes sound too similar in this setting. Though the listener becomes transfixed and finds it difficult to stop engaging during the space it takes the record to wind through nine songs, there are moments when you wonder what, exactly, you just heard.

Still, there’s more than enough brilliance to go around, such with the Bathory cover “To Hall Up High.” As impossible as it may seem to that someone could come close to the original, it’s been done and well enough that Quothorn himself would probably put down his shield and sword and enjoy the piece with a warrior’s tear in his eye. Though there are some who would allow the tune to slide into parody, Bruun is not one of those people and it proves to be a highlight of the record.

With her band Ex Cops a thing of the past at the time of this writing, it seems that Bruun has many options before her and that the future for Myrkur is (ironically) rather bright. What happens next may be the thing that elevates the artist and this music to a new height. This record may inspire its share of imitators but here’s hoping that this remains a singular event and not some indication of either Myrkur’s future direction or a trend in black metal. All this beauty in this one place is quite enough.

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