Review Summary: Wardruna's second visionary masterpiece.
Kindled by former Gorgoroth members Einar Kvitrafn Selvik and Gaahl, plus Lindy-Fay Hella, rising from the embers of times before existence are Wardruna. Their music may not the most adaptable of sounds however it is some of the most pure and naturalistic that you will ever hear. “Yggdrasil” is the second of three albums based on 24 ancient Norse alphabetic runes known as the Elder Futhrak. The scope of their project does not stop there- the songs are sung in an ancient Norse language as well as their Norwegian mother tongue, the instruments used are either natural sounds or old original instruments and whilst you cannot understand the lyrics, you can certainly feel them.
The songs echo so gracefully amongst themselves that on occasion you can’t tell if the music you hear is part of the same song or a different one; “Yggdrasil” is an album that needs to be absorbed in its entirety to truly appreciate its primal sound. The wild flow of songs reminisces the weaving of all three vocalist’s abilities. During ‘Rotlaust Tre Fell’ Gaahl’s pagan, and harsher, vocals are balanced by Hella’s soaring voice to stitch a solemn feel of serenity to these textured songs. This fire vs. water approach is evident throughout the album with stunningly synchronised and enchanting vocals nestle within the real-world sounds of thunderstorms, crows, flowing water and gales of wind. Here, Wardruna create an aura of pure grandeur.
The mood of the album sways constantly in the winds of Wardruna. ‘Gibu’ has all the traditional Nordic instrumental elements included in the album so far with chirpy flute and folky violins however Hella suddenly breaks into desperate sighs, the fearful mood is heightened as the pace quickens leaving scars of intensity imprinted on "Yggdrasil". The fastest song is probably ‘IngwaR’ however the wild, mellifluous nature of this album is further exemplified as Kvitrafn resonates a feeling of neutrality through the monotonous drums thrumming against the breezy wind instruments and jittering violins.
“Yggdrasil” clearly has an ambience whereby individual songs cannot be picked out as favourites. The visionary environment that this album emits paint vivid and individual pictures in your head that enhance the fact that this is more of a journey than anything else. For example, in the closer, ‘Helvegen’, the airier passages may transport you to observing a typical Viking funeral standing next to a still river while watching a longboat drifting past; holding inside, perhaps, a fallen king. At the climax of the song, the observers (musicians) sing their hymns of farewell and as the boat ignites with fire it illuminates the night sending their spirit soaring to Valhalla. The gloomier ‘Sowelu’ takes you to a vast landscape where the simplistic acoustics reveal a lone man wandering through the wilderness, encountering mysterious shadows within a dense forest. The harsher vocals become more evident as the song becomes more threatening while the cowering whispers sounds like it could be a narrative of his tale.
Wardruna has captured the imagery to unearth wisdom and spirituality. Under the skies of Odin, as the firelight silhouettes your body against the mountains of Norway, listening to the gentle rhythm of “Yggdrasil”, you can almost feel the flicker of the flames on your cheek.