Album Review: Wardruna - KVITRAVN


In a slight branching off for Elektro Vox, I am going to write articles on the other half of my music heart.. Nordic and 'Viking' era inspired music. I soon plan to write an in depth look in to the strong connection industrial music fans also have towards Nordic music and the Aesir and Vanir polytheism; As well as the Animism both cultures display in different ways.

There are so far four short episodes to do with the nature and inspiration behind KVITRAVN, the first of which you can see here:

Episode one

For me Wardruna is not about empty rituals or reciting the past or empty symbols. That doesn't carry any meaning any more. It's about giving voice to the thoughts and ideas that we still have use for; They still carry the same relevance as they did when they were a living tradition. I make music for those who are here and now and not as a form of escapism. - Einar episode IV

We are very happy to finally share this long-overdue album with you all. In this past period leading up to the release, it has been truly overwhelming to see how well you have received the songs we have shared so far. We sincerely hope you will enjoy the rest! For me personally, this album represents a natural continuation and development of everything we have done so far. Through experience, reflection and hungry curiosity, we potentially continue to grow as humans, scholars and musicians and with this constant movement, our ability to dive deeper into our work also grows. More clearly than before, does this album and its songs address us as humans in our own time. And even though the songs convey ways and words originating from a distant past, they are still just as much ways and words for the “now”. They are ideas born out of the very grounds we still tread, which is also what gives them the ability to speak to and resonate within us still. Let us listen carefully, and sow or reaffirm the idea or attitude that nature is something sacred.

-Einar


Review

This album will be so very familiar with fans of Wardruna and of course the History channel show 'Vikings'. Einar having written a lot of the music for the show and for Assassin's Creed: Valhalla. Many of the songs and melodies having been used in the Vikings TV show or played out in a similar fashion in previous Wardrunna releases.

To this effect the entire album draws you in like a Siren's call. Each track feels well known to you and yet so new that your mind craves to hear more. It is hard to gauge space and time once you settle in to the living history weaving its way through your entire being. When I first listened to this in its entirety I was in a candle lit bath with the steam producing swirling images dancing to the tales being sung. Imagination was not hard to stretch with such a profound and enthralling soundscape.

Now as I finally sit down to put some semblance of justice in to the words of this review I look out upon a snow storm and feel the same connection to the Gods, myself, and the spirit of all things around me that this album invokes.

'Synkverv' is a more haunting direction than we are used to with Wardruna but sets this album up for the mysteries of the listener own self and the knowledge within the music that one with an open mind might hope to find. Although the tracks are not sung in English of course, (Norwegian) the lyrical expression of the music still caries through and the following lyrics encompass that overall feel for the album:

The harp plays Luring and drawing Winding you in In an imaginary spin Woven and tied Switched in a poem-spindle Desire for knowledge Playing in your mind Tones themselves Playing in your eyes Mistruths and lies Lure you in

With the title track Kvitravn (White Raven) we find a journey all unto itself. From the deep ambient horns, the resonant lyre, to the choral depths, and Einar's and Lind-Fay's pure emotion provoking vocal talent; This track has all of the hallmarks that Wardruna is loved for.

Be it intentional or not, As we later have a song titled 'Munin' which sings about Hugin and Munin (Odin's Ravens Thought and Memory) both, I find myself drawn toward the meaning of the album as a whole in that we should all be more thoughtful of our place in the world and our impact. Such a striking image to visualise Hugin (Thought) as the white raven in the artwork and music video, and therefore reflect on our own thoughts when listening.


KVITRAVN music video

Which leads us to 'Skugge' which is possibly my favourite track on the album. It brings out that primal urge to fight and stamp out injustice.

The song “Skugge” (“Shadow”) is an eerie sonic journey voicing a dialogue between man and shadow or as Einar puts it;

“It is a song about shadows, echoes, and the balance between seeking answers and wisdom internally and externally."

The song starts very slowly, with the deep echoing resonance that seems to be their signature style. The deep voice introduces the story of being approached by a shadow and asking it for answers. Einar's voice then pierces your heart with an incredibly emotional and almost heartbroken sounding change of vocals before becoming ritualistic in its tribal drumming. Finally fading out in to whispers at the shadow reminds him their are answers to be found in ones-self.

Skugge Official Lyric Video

Grá (Grey) is our song to the wolf. It speaks about the ancient bond and relationship between man and wolf. It seeks to address and acknowledge the cost and responsibility of being part of, and not above nature. Once again, we were given the opportunity go to Finland and work with a beautiful and brave rescued wolf called Tihu and her caretakers. The video was directed by our friend Tuukka Koski and his fantastic team at Koski Syväri.

Powerful and invocative, 'Grá' uses an impressive sound mix of wolf, drum, breaths, vocals, and ambience to create a masterful delve in to the psyche. If you don't feel at least a moderate chill in your spine to this one, are you even alive?

Grá music video

The songs 'Fylgjutal', 'Kvit Hjort', 'Viseveiding', 'Ni', and 'Vindavlarljod' continue with this theme of nature and finding the knowledge both in the land around us and from tales of the past. Each is a complex layering of traditional sound finely crafted to evoke emotional response. Each is beautiful in uniquely different ways.


'Munin' is a song that will strike deep in to the hearts of any who follow Odinism / Asatru / Norse paganism in that it quotes the Poetic Edda poem Grímnismál in which Odin describes his news bringing Ravens, as well as the connection they have with his own being.

I own two ravens They are my dearest One for my memory One for my thought In each wind, from me flying their own way They chant songs to me when they come home Sometimes I fear, that Thought will not return home but more I worry, that Memory will lose his way

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Einar and the wolves Tihu and Siida..

Photo by Kim öhrling // Koski Syväri


Finally the album is wrapped up with 'Andvevarljod' (Song of the Spirit-Weavers)..

'The song is a central piece on the new album KVITRAVN. It explores the Nordic deities of fate; the Norns, the spinning of life threads and the Norse and Sámi common idea that a person´s spirit is connected to wind, both before and after birth. The song features guest appearances by a small group of prominent Norwegian traditional singers, Kirsten Bråten Berg, Sigrid Berg, Unni Løvlid, Ingebjørg Reinholdt alongside our own Lindy-Fay Hella.

"On a personal level, Andvevarljod is a song I hold very dear and it was also my starting point on the new album. Musically, it gives voice to very old song traditions and on top of that it is voiced by some of the most central reasons why these traditions are being kept alive for us and the generations to come. So, special thanks go out to our guest singers for lending us their talents and for the invaluable work they do for keeping our traditions alive!" - Einar

At just over ten minutes long, this track is a crowning achievement to the entirety of the album. What are songs for if not story telling, and how have the Norse gods become known to us if not through story and song? This song tells of the Nine Norns, also know as the women of fate who weaved the destiny of all things.

Another song that starts slow as it builds a strong foundation to hit deeper and deeper in to the listener as Einar's almost tragedy filled voice enriches the song here and there bringing a huge inexplicable sense of pride to the listener with drive and purpose.

Here is a more acoustic and shorter version sung by Einar:

Andvevarljod (Skaldic version)

Nine Norns – hear me Guard my path and lead with alleviating hands and in healing footsteps

Tracklist


Synkverv Kvitravn Skugge Grá Fylgjutal Munin Kvit Hjort Viseveiding Ni Vindavlarljod Andvevarljod


Conclusion

In a horrifically fast changing world and mankind's failure to protect the Earth we find ourselves in desperate need of things that will bring about the connection and Animism mankind once had for nature. Wardruna have created a complex yet beautifully simplistic way to connect with the spirits around us with their music once more. The deep serenity and spiritual tidings felt throughout their melodies and vocal story telling can teach us all to be far more considerate and mindful to the effect we have on the world around us.

If mother Earth could use a voice to appeal to us all, then Wardruna seem to have found it and given voice to her woes. Einar continues to be the profound master of ancient music set amongst our electric chaos..


Scores


Instruments: 9.5/10

Soul/Spirit: 10/10

Energy : 8.5/10

Vocals : 9 / 10

Re-playability: 9/10


Overall score: 9.2 / 10

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