When you consider the modern Folk Music movement, we can be quite sure of one thing: Wardruna are on the very top of that tree. They have been able to cross over almost any musical border there might be and have a vast following among many different types of music fans. The main reason why many The Metal Wanderlust readers might take interest would be the Gorgoroth link of two founding members, Einar Selvik and Gaahl. Yet, Wardruna has nothing to do with the screeching Black Metal of their former unit. Not in the least. Instead, they move on the more meditative side of modern Folk, relying not only on the recording techniques of the day, but accompanying it with quite a number of traditional instruments of prehistoric Scandinavia. Their music is a marriage of two worlds, so to speak.
Wardruna is often linked to ambient music, for lack of better term, and I totally understand why many listeners approach their music in such a manner. But while the compositions often dwell in the realms of atmospheric, slow in tempo and maybe a bit dronish at places, there lies a huge musicality behind Wardruna as well. Calling the theme merely ambient would be a crime. Melodies and harmonies are all carefully planned and performed, honed to a point where the spell of captivity is never broken. This is music that takes you places.
On their fifth album, “Kvitravn,” Wardruna come across perhaps folkier than ever. Whereas the previous album, “Skald” (2018), was a stripped down affair, where Einar Selvik performed Wardruna’s music in a scaldic fashion, with his voice and an accompanying sole instrument, Kvitravn sees the group return to their bombastic best. They have never claimed to be a full-on recreation of Scandinavian Folk Music, but rather something new instead. A new interpretation of the subject in matter, so to speak. Yet, on Kvitravn the melodic playfulness of the actual Scandinavian Folk comes across more than before, especially in tunes like “Skugge,” for example. Links to traditional singing of northern European Sámi people can be heard as well.
Since Gaahl left Wardruna after their second album, “Runaljod – Yggdrasil” (2013), the third original member Lindy-Fay Hella has been playing a larger role in the music. On “Kvitravn,” her spellbinding vocal delivery weaves seamlessly together with Einar’s singing, and the combination has never sounded better. Einar’s voice has a new type of confidence and delivery to it as well, which enhances the experience.
Lyrically, “Kvitravn” (White Raven) deals with the esoteric areas of sorcery, spirit animals, nature and the relation in between the sage and the song. It is as meditative a listen as their first album, “Runaljod – gap var Ginnunga” (2009), but not as ambient sounding as their third, “Runaljod – Ragnarok” (2016), which was rich with dynamics, thorough in song writing and flawlessly recorded.
This sure is an album that can take you on a journey within your mind, if you give it a chance. It might take a little patience and a peaceful state of being, but when you enter the realm of this particular album, I’m pretty sure you will love it. Thoroughly. “Kvitravn” is the best Wardruna album so far. Full bodied, and with a concept that utilizes all the best sides of their past, but takes the vessel a step further, with better performances, compositions and arrangements. The first masterpiece of an album in 2021 is right here.
Rating – 4.5/5