Wardruna’s fifth album has at last arrived, a long time in coming due to current world events. Since their debut album in 2009, they have seen increasing amounts of international interest and success, and this could be a major milestone for the band. Wardruna are dedicated to creating musical renditions of Norse cultural and esoteric traditions using some of the oldest Nordic instruments, including such instruments as the goat-horn, Kravik-lyre and the taglharpa, to name a few, all of which go some way to help create the band’s unique sound.
This is music which, for me, has a great connection to the earth with its almost pagan link to past traditions; the earthly connection here is further enhanced by the use of sound effects, including crows, wolves and the ocean, to name but a few. Band leader and directive force Einar Selvik has stated that this is “an album I’ve been thinking about writing for a long time”. He goes on to say to say that it “points out more clearly than ever what has been the ultimate goal or motivation of Wardruna since the beginning – taking old thoughts that still carry relevance and creating something new with them”. Einar also stresses the importance of the lyrics, inspired by oral traditions and culture. These song are sung in their native Norwegian, but that does not distract from the powerful emotional connection they create, indeed it may enhance it. If you so wish, English translations of the lyrics can be found online.
The eleven songs here do not appear obviously connected but they form part of a natural song arch within which they sit together well, giving the album an excellent ebb and flow throughout. The running time is around sixty-five minutes, in some cases this could be seen as long but that is not the case here; the immersive and almost hypnotic effect of the music creates an interesting listening experience. The powerful use of the drums gives the songs a directive force, around which the other instruments including harp and the vocals twist and turn. It is here with the vocals that mention must go to Lindy-Fay Hella whose contributions give an ethereal and magical touch, and are top quality.
The album opens with Synkverv (‘Turn Sight’), a song which is ultimately rooted in Nordic traditions, but on occasion there is what appears to be a Mediterranean feel, and at others Celtic touches, all coming together to create an engaging whole. Next is Kvitravn (‘White Raven’), an atmospheric start of the wind and crows calling, taglharpa taking the lead with solid drum support. It is here that the vocals grab your attention, wrapping in and around the music in a mesmerising way.
Skugge (‘Shadow’) has a slow almost chant-like vocal to begin, a drum accompaniment creating a beautiful and maybe sad feel before the tempo changes half way through. The drums pick up the pace and the vocal pattern also changes to give a different feel to the latter half of the song, perfectly paced and constructed.
The standard of these three lead tracks continues throughout the album, drawing you in further to this world of earthly connections. The last two tracks are almost epics; Vindavlarljod (‘Song go the Wind-bred’) and Andvevarljod (‘Song of the Spirit-weavers’) appear somewhat connected, bringing things to a satisfying and breath-taking conclusion that leaves the listener with a strong urge to hit replay.
It is clear to see the care and attention that Einar Selvik has put into these compositions and this may be the band’s masterwork to date, its historical and traditional Nordic connections wrapped up with modern production. The success of these songs is found in the emotional connection they invoke within the listener, they will speak to everyone in an individual way. This, for me, is further proof of the great and varied music coming out of Norway.
01. Synkverv (Turn-Sight) (4:50)
02. Kvitravn (White Raven) (6:17)
03. Skugge (Shadow) (6:38)
04. Grá (Grey) (3:32)
05. Fylgjutal (Speech of the Fylgja) (7:05)
06. Munin (Memory) (5:26)
07. Kvit hjort (White Stag) (5:41)
08. Viseveiding (Song-hunting) (4:48)
09. Ni (Nine) (4:28)
10. Vindavlarljod (Song of the Wind-bred) (6:39)
11. Andvevarljod (Song of the Spirit-weavers) (10:16)
Total Time – 65:46
Einar Selvik – Vocals, Lyre, Flute, Goat Horn, Lur, Drums, Percussion
Linda-Fey Hella – Vocals
Eilif Gundersen – Lur, Goat Horn, Flute, Backing Vocals
Arne Sandvoll – Percussion, Backing Vocals
Hans Christian Dalgaard – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
John Stenersen – moraharpe, backing vocals
Kirsten Bråten Berg – Vocals
Stella – Vocals
Unni Løvlid – Multi-instuments
Lognvik Reinholdt – Vocals
Record Label: Music for Nations
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 22nd January 2021