Wardruna – Kvitravn
Wardruna’s fifth studio album Kvitravn has reached chart topping, global success and there is no question why, with the way things are in the world. This album provides a much needed escape into a time and place far removed from the current strange and broken reality most of us are facing right now. The music exudes such a rich sound filled with both peaceful spirituality and powerful strength… All things much of us are craving to get through the day, to see us back to a world we recognize. But until then, losing ourselves in such majestic sonic realms such as Kvitravn is just another way we are surviving.
Kvitravn means “White Raven” and is also Einar’s stage name however the cover art is an elegant pelt of black feathers. I figured it might be to simply create a stark contrast for the image of the white raven (metaphorically and visually as the inner art shows a white raven in mid flight on a black background), but haven’t found any info on whether or not there is some other significance to the coloring. I also could not find any information on the album art’s artist. So instead of falling into a dark hole researching the art and significance of it all in relation to the literature, I’ll continue with the music…
The album begins with one of the strongest songs of the album, in my opinion. ‘Synkverv’ is both uplifting yet haunting and although its adorned with the classic Wardruna accoutrements, somehow the song feels a bit more generic, though I cant put my finger on exactly why it is. Maybe the vocal harmonies, cinematicness, or overall construction or a mix of those things. Anyway, it creates sort of a cliffhanger “What is the rest of this album about?”. That generic, mainstream feeling swerves through out the rest of the album as well. Just a bit more familiar than previous more straight forward Wardruna style folk music. A bit easier for the commoners ears to digest. The rest of the album is a pretty balanced mix of classic Wardruna and that new more modern/mainstream tinge. That powerful melancholic folk/pagan sound that takes you to that world I mentioned before. The place in the forest with the rituals and connectedness to nature and spirituality that is so removed from most of our daily lives. The catchy beats and more cinematic construction that is a bit more familiar to other modern music we know, making the music easier to follow and a bit more listener friendly. Somehow a bit easier to relate to than earlier Wardruna.
Songs like ‘Skugge’ and ‘Fylgjutal’ have both those cinematic builds, and pure folk sounds. Both catchy mainstream beats and melodies as well as the deep powerful melancholic peacefulness. Moments like ‘Grá’ , ‘Viseveiding’ and ‘Ni’, provide the “back to basics” feel, classic Wardruna sounds, accompanied by wolf howls and the haunting vocals of Lindy-Fay Hella creating a beautiful raw, pagan energy. ‘Andvevarljod’ is one of the other strong points in the album, providing a fitting ending track. While ‘Synkverv’ gave us a cliffhanger, ‘Andvevarljod‘ gives us closure. A proper summing up of the album with an incredibly epic draw. Both Einar and Lindy’s vocals have such strength in them, such emotion, it makes me wonder what the song is about (for the first time this album). The low sounds and slow rhythmic drums, melancholic melody as well as background thunder and rain sound effects all create a pretty strong visual, of something epic and dark but stunning. Indeed some kind of storm.
In one term, I would describe the album as Well Rounded which could be a positive or negative thing depending on who you asked. Some might want or expect Wardruna to have more unyielding, straight forward approach to folk music, which wouldn’t be described as well rounded or diverse. Some might see these new branches of more cinematic and mainstream sounds a good thing, some diversity to keep the vibe fresh. There aren’t many low points of the album, a few really strong points and some that aren’t necessarily low but just a bit forgettable. Some moments where the blend of new and old sounds work, some where it seems the music is a bit misleading, starting out in a very simple way, one sound… A drum, an animal, an unknown instrument standing alone, but then building in a somewhat unexpected way… more cinematic or catchy than traditional. In all it is an incredibly powerful album, and again, no wonder why it has reached such fame and adoration on a global level. I hope the live scene is revived someday soon so we can appreciate this on a tangible level.
Wardruna will put on a live stream album release show on March 26th – buy your tickets here!
7. Kvit Hjort
Einar Selvik – Vocals, Taglharpa, Kravik-lyre, Bukkehorn
Lindy-Fay Hella – Vocals
Arne Sandvoll – Percussion, Backing vocals
Eilif Gundersen – Bukkehorn, Lur, Flute, Backing vocals
HC Dalgaard – Drums, Percussion, Backing vocals
John Stenersen – Mora-harp
Live photos by Serena Solomon from Wardruna’s concert at Kultturitalo in Helisnki, Finland 17.11.2019 –
gig report here.