Posts Tagged ‘Music For Nations’

Music For Nations – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Wardruna were recently the focus of a rather unexpected article on ‘the rise of dark Nordic folk’ in The Guardian. It was largely positive, about how a largely obscure underground scene was reaching a wider audience, and emphasised the elementary influences of the distinctly non-metal genre. It was a feature that also doubled as a plug for new album Kvitravn, which, we’re told, is a continuation of the Runaljod trilogy in musical terms, but at the same time marks ‘a distinct evolution in Wardruna’s unique sound’.

And it is indeed a unique sound, and the album begins with haunting acapella vocals and rumbling atmospherics before picked strings and pounding martial drums fill the air with bold patterns. The sense of scale and depth that characterises the album as a whole is brought to the fore from the very start. More than this, it’s a sense of something primeval and non-linguistic that pervades Kvitravn. Like many listeners, I have no comprehension of the words, which are sung in elongated vowelly drones, the voices coming together not so much in harmony but in throng. And there is something immensely powerful about that. I suppose that the voice as an instrument taps into some deeper consciousness and resonates on a level that’s more genetic or spiritual than gnostic.

Tense and mournful violins provide the main accompaniment to the lugubrious vocals on the six-minute title track. It’s the roar of the sea that brings the arrival of the funereal shanty that is ‘Skugge’. The thumping motoric ‘Fylgjutal’ with its brooding bassline and repetitive guttural vocal growling is incredibly Germanic, and referencing Rammstein doesn’t seem entirely inappropriate here in terms of connecting to anyone unfamiliar with Wardruna: the drums pummel and it’s intense in a relentless way, battering away for the majority of its expansive seven and a half minutes before taking a more poet-rock turn to the close. It all drives forward toward the ten-minute ‘Andvevarljod’ or ‘Song of the Spirit-weavers’ which is epic in every sense and encapsulates the album within a single, immense track.

The instrumentation is, by and large, spartan, and if the string arrangements connote more traditional folk, then ethereal droning backdrops and tribal drumming hark back to something more traditional still – that is to say, that what we commonly associate with ‘traditional’ is often fairly modern, and that all too often our sense of history and skewed and myopic.

Kvitravn evokes images of forests, of caves, of barren mountain tops and vast expanses of moorland, and wide open spaces without people… the occasional wolf or bear, maybe, but a preindustrial world, of wildness and wilderness. And while it does have a certain ‘soundtrack’ feel to it, nothing feel forced or artificial. Kvitravn doesn’t feel like an ersatz replica of Nordic dark ages, but as if it was actually created there and has leaked forward through time to the present, untouched. As such, it’s a moving experience.

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