Wardruna have gained international acclaim and admiration for their incredibly thought provoking, ethereal and mystical Nordic music, since arriving out of the Norwegian landscape back in 2009. Starting with the first of a trilogy of albums Runaljod – Gap Var Ginnunga, Wardruna’s music has continually evolved and has been featured multiple times on History Channel’s hit television show Vikings, with Einar Selvik working closely with Vikings composer Trevor Morris. Einar who also went on to become one of three composers to work on the recent Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla soundtrack. Kvitravn (which translates to “White Raven”) is an intense and spiritual journey unlike anything that the band have presented to us before, an album that is significantly more esoteric and obscure.
Kvitravn sees Wardruna return to their thunderous soundscapes and hypnotic full studio production after 2018s moving and stripped back Skald. The album delves into the Nordic culture and mythology alongside the philosophical concepts of what shapes human nature and nature itself. Provide these concepts with the sounds and deep rhythms of traditional Nordic instruments such as the goat horn, moraharpe, taglharpa and lur, you are presented with a very complex, intense and spiritual listening experience. As you journey through the album, you’re transported to snowy mountain ranges, vast forests, and generally being surrounded by nature, where Einar’s passionate vocals hang in the air and echo into eternity. You’re reminded of the tentative relationship humans have with nature, as demonstrated in 'Grá' (Grey), which represents the wolf, and to a deeper extent our mutual yet wary coexistence with the other animals we share this planet with. This totemic symbolism of the wolf is carried on through 'Fylgjutal' (Speech Of The Fylgja), a beautiful track filled with soaring soundscapes, pounding rhythmic movements alongside mesmerising vocals that carry the narrative with a powerful presence.
The rich tapestry of layers and textures in Kvitravn put you straight into the heart of nature and penetrates your soul, Einar often states that Wardruna’s music is for the present moment, and you certainly get wrapped up in that specific moment of each song. There is a strong animistic presence throughout the album, an ancient belief that everything has a spirit and is sentient. Every instrument, sound effect and vocal takes on its own spirit, which resonates with the listener as it envelopes them in this highly aware and spiritual world. Due to the deep passion and personal meaning that Einar gives to the songs, channelling this animistic perspective, the album is substantially more remarkable feat of skilful composition and scholarly passion. Kvitravn draws on the Runaljod trilogy in some ways, but richly enhancing its moods and concepts evolving into a more grandiose soundscape. This demonstrated best by the album’s closing song 'Andvevarljod' (Song of the Spirit-weavers), a ten minute epic of multi-textural vocals and instrumentation alluding to the stories of the mysterious Norns, the weavers of fate in Norse mythology alongside the most haunting song 'Skugge' (Shadow) is eerily ethereal, which has a similar resonance to the band’s seminal song 'Helvegen'.
There is a lot to take in with Kvitravn. Whilst there is an overarching concept to any Wardruna album, there is so much more that is open to the listener’s own unique interpretation. There is something intensely hypnotic about Kvitravn, transcending beyond the listener’s conscious thoughts. There are not many artists and albums that can take you on this kind of musical journey, taking you down a well trodden ancient path but still feeling invigoratingly fresh and new, is in itself an art. This album will further enhance the mysticism surrounding and the reverence for Wardruna, leaving a significant impact that will live long in everyone’s “Munin” (Memory).