Review Summary: Come, sit by the hearth.
Once the brainchild of ex-Gorgoroth members, Wardruna sits amongst a pile of tradition and ritual. Sure, the band’s more infamous black metal members may have gone their separate ways (namely in regards to Gaahl), but in Wardruna’s fifth full-length, this Norwegian based export reaches new heights, achieving a potential only ever hinted at with their array of traditional instruments. Still, some hyperbole is to be expected when your lineup boasts multi-instrumentalists capable of sharing and swapping duties between vocalists, flutes, goat horns, lur, taglharpa and varying degrees of percussion. By any means Kvitravn
should be an impressive album even before the first note is struck. Thankfully, the preemptive accolades are well deserved by the record’s end. In 2021, Wardruna tell a tale of a white raven in epic fashion, helping earmark a quality year of music.
For the most part, Kvitravn
is a safe
listen, considering a host of unconventional instruments and internalizing of Scandavian culture. “Synkverv” opens with grandiosity, coupling gentle layering with sheer atmosphere. A call penetrates the twangs of strings and light percussion adds a cinematic, ritualistic clime. The mellow, yet minor soundscapes build slower adding layer upon layer into a whirlwind of chanting and recurring melodic hooks. The album’s title track is similarly geared, but takes the band’s clear atmosphere to a whole new level. The surging but completely hypnotic phrasing of the group’s traditional instruments adds to the interplay between the aural landscape to which Wardruna compose and the less than corporeal connection to their listeners. By and large, Wardruna is trying to tell a story, but in a way that could be imagined around a hearth, goat sacrifice at the ready and ale in hand.
itself is top heavy and “Skugge'' (translating loosely to “Shadow”) is exactly the Scando-banger of the tracks that precede it, while staying notoriously brooding. Nevertheless, Wardruna’s fifth full-length is stronger in its beginning than its end - but lacks a large enough dip in quality to affect the album’s overall reception. Whether it’s the pensive and introspective “Munin” or the lamenting “HvitHjort”, Wardruna moves from building stride to slow march, but remains rooted in their method of storytelling.
may have lightly indicated its stronger start, something has to be said about the record’s closing two tracks. Both “Vindavlarljod” and “Andvevarljod” act as Wardruna’s closing one-two punch. Again, the build is gradual, allowing the group’s vocal layering to take center stage. The music itself ebbs and flows, not unlike a tide lapping a sandy Norwegian shore. If you allow this analogy to continue, it’s climax becomes a storm, willed in by the gods and heeded by those who can read the divine’s otherworldly motives. Yeah, that’s probably too much a stretch for us mortals… but it’s Wardruna’s captivating story-telling that bridges the gap between a sonic portrait and a portrait within the listeners’ minds. Overall, Kvitravn
is a delight, brought from history’s lesser known sagas into today’s modern world. With this album in mind, I await Winter and a warm fire - wrapped in Wardruna’s embrace.