Album review: Wardruna – Kvitravn

Masters of dark Nordic folk Wardruna mesmerise and captivate with fifth album Kvitravn...

Album review: Wardruna – Kvitravn
Hannah May Kilroy

Paganism in heavy music may be having a moment, but few do it with as much authority as Wardruna. Helmed by founder and frontman Einar Selvik, the Norwegians’ darkly expansive folk brings the natural world and Nordic myth and history to vivid life using an impressive range of ancient instruments, from lyres to goat horns. Many may also know Selvik for composing the score of hit TV show Vikings, but Wardruna’s music stands with strength and conviction on its own.

Kvitravn is Wardruna’s fifth full-length release, and the album title translates into English as ‘white raven’, a creature with which Einar feels a special connection and considers to be his ‘artist name’. He approaches everything that Wardruna does with uncompromising accuracy and dedication – whether he’s making ancient instruments from hides and bones, or spending days in the wilderness to prepare for songwriting – and with a scholarly level of detail. As a result, there is much to explore thematically on Kvitravn, from the lyrics that are rooted in oral storytelling to the historical and mythological references throughout, like album closer Andvevarljod’s plea to the Norns, the female deities of Norse mythology who govern fate. But you don’t need to be a scholar or even a Norwegian speaker to experience the emotive power of Wardruna – all that authenticity just transfers into the music to make it more magical.

Perhaps less immediate and song-based than previous albums, Kvitravn feels more like one cohesive journey, from the thumping percussion and soaring harmonised vocals of opener Synkverv to the stripped-back build-up of Grá, where Lindy-Fay Hella’s feral yet elegant vocals particularly shine. While there’s an undeniable eeriness to Wardruna’s sound, there is more light and hope in the grandiose swells of sound throughout, and that, together with the repetitive beats, makes Kvitravn a truly meditative listening experience, one to get lost in. Wardruna may be at odds with the modern world, but, perhaps, they are exactly what the modern world needs.

Verdict: 4/5

For Fans Of: Heilung, Enslaved, Hexvessel

Kvitravn is released on January 22 via Music For Nations.

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