May 23, 2022

Wardruna – ‘Kvitravn – First Flight Of The White Raven’ – “an excellent introduction / celebration”

MUSIC FOR NATIONS     22 April 2022

A live album without a crowd, a greatest hits without the hits, a recreation of music that no-one knows the true sound of; Wardruna have an excellent introduction / celebration album here.

A year ago, releasing their last album, Kvitravn, and with the obvious lockdown frustrations, Wardruna assembled some pieces from that release, bundled with selections of their previous work (as you usually do for a tour setlist) and took it into the studio to record live and broadcast online in lieu of touring the album. It’s been a year since that webcast and, as a taster for the tour, the set gets a release.It had been a year since the team had been together in the same room and it must have been rather special for them.

Having previously enjoyed the three-part Runaljod albums between 2009 and 2016, the last couple escaped my attention and I’m delighted to hear Wardruna still in action. Einar Selvik, the creative driving force has attracted a lot of attention since soundtracking the History Channel’s The Vikings, working on one of the Assassin’s Creed games and being called on to contribute to Viking academia. The core sound remains the same, with rhythms based on hand-drums and spare vocals. Other instruments sometimes don’t register as such, since they include things like: Taglharpa, Kravik lyre, goat horn, tongue horn, bronze lure, flute, Trossingen lyre, Sotharpa, Langeleik, Crwth and Moraharpa.

There are big choral pieces, chanting, solo pieces and an overall serious and portentous sound. It does break up into more upbeat pieces, like Solringen, and varies in sound with things like throat singing (excellent sample on Bjorkan). Whether it is authentic, no-one can truly know, but it bears comparison with the traditions of some extant Northern cultures and traces can be found elsewhere, thanks to the dramatic reach of the Vikings, who settled all over the place, in the UK, Northern France (Norman = Northman), through Russia (literally ‘red’) and down to Turkey.

This live set is more forceful and a little less otherworldly than the albums, perhaps because of the use of a number of session musicians, rather than the usual multi-tracking of Einar. It presents a good mix of Wardruna’s music and has a unified and intense sound that will welcome newcomers as well as shine a new light on works fans will already know.