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wardruna yggdrasil
Artist: Wardruna
Title: Yggdrasil
Genre: Nordic Folk/ World/ Dark Ambient
Release Date: 25th March 2013
Label: Indie Recordings


Album Review

The “warden of runes, secrets, and knowledge” - that's what WARDRUNA essentially means. Is there are more fitting band name for a “Norwegian musical constellation set out to explore and evoke the depths of Norse wisdom and spirituality”?! WARDRUNA's tracks are characteristically inspired by selected runes from the “Elder Futhark”, the oldest form of the runic alphabet, and feature the oldest of Nordic instruments. So, who are these keepers of all the mystery and creators of such magical tunes and compelling lyrics in Norwegian, Old Norse, and Proto-Norse tongue? They are singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Einar Kvitrafn Selvik together with ex-GORGOROTH singer Kristian Espedal (aka Gaahl) and vocalist Lindy-Fay Hella. Mastermind Einar is also known for contributing greatly to the score of the second season of “Vikings” working with composer and producer Trevor Morris.

‘Yggdrasil’, WARDRUNA's latest album, is the second part of their ‘Runaljod’ trilogy and was released in 2013, four years after the mesmerizing debut ‘gap var Ginnunga’. Renowned Icelandic composer Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Iceland’s leading rímur singer Steindórr Andersen appear as guests on this exceptional record. Those who are fascinated about Norse mythology already know that “Yggdrasil” refers to the sacred world tree, an ash standing at the centre of the cosmos holding all nine worlds together. Even though WARDRUNA might be labelled as a Nordic Folk, World, or Dark Ambient project, it's actually a band defying all classification. Listening to ‘Yggdrasil’ is a truly profound experience – it takes you on a spiritual journey!

What makes WARDRUNA's sonic landscape so special is their use of historical instruments such as ethnic frame drums that they made themselves using deer hide, the Kraviklyra (oldest stringed instrument found in Norway) and tagelharpe (a “Viking fiddle”), a mouth harp, and wind instruments like the goat horn and the lure. Moreover, you can clearly hear that recordings took place even in the wild. Einar chose every time the right outdoor location that is representative of the specific rune. Real sounds of boisterous wind and the rustling of leaves in the trees, rumbling thunder and drenching rain, running water or burning torches, croaking ravens and singing birds, and footsteps crunching in the snow, all contribute to the naturalistic feel of ‘Yggdrasil’. Every single track is multi-layered and enthralling because of WARDRUNA's mystic intertwining of ancient instruments you rarely get to hear, those true nature sounds which “enhance the nature of the rune being portrayed”, and, finally, a variety of harmonizing vocals ranging from breathing, mysterious whispering and dramatic chants, to clear, melodic male and female vocals, as well as mighty choirs and occasional screams.

With moody chants and a sweeping chorus the ritualistic opening track ‘Rotlaust tre fell’ (“A Rootless Tree Falls”) invokes “all-father Odin”, “mother min Frigg”, the “sons of Heimdall”, the “Norns”, “wise Vanir”, and “elves, dwarfs, goddesses and witches” who all should protect the great tree ‘Yggdrasil’. In the rhythmic ‘Fehu’ (“Wealth”) beautiful female vocals join in the typical polyphonic male vocals. Some resonating singing that is soft and almost whispered in the mid part adds an ethereal aspect to the tribal tune. The dark ambience of ‘NaudiR’ (“Need”) captivates the senses with its enigmatic tone, calmly spoken lines in the characteristic musical and cultic sounding tongue, and forceful shouts in a wild scenery – mesmerizing! In an interview Einar revealed that he fastened for two days and wandered barefooted and scantily clad through a snow-covered mountain to be able to “capture the fire” in this song. And so he convincingly sings: “I trong er vunne / Naud min eld” (“In need is found / Naud my fire”).

‘EhwaR’ (“Horse”) begins with hoof beats of a galloping horse leading to a trotting drum rhythm, which is quite fitting since this rune's meaning is movement. ‘AnsuR’ (“Æsir”), the rune of the gods, sacral knowledge, and inspiration, is a meditative song sung in Proto-Norse. It's introduced with horns and something that sounds like rattling of bones. On ‘IwaR’ (“Yew Warrior”) there are footsteps in the snow, a repeating string melody, pounding drums and percussive choir chants that make you feel like you are marching into battle or rowing a boat in unison with your comrades. In the beginning of ‘IngwaR’ (“Ing's Warrior”) one hears whistling winds and the breaths of a lonely wanderer who is trudging through a wild scenery of cold snow. Slow drums set it and then increase as stringed instruments and also flutes join in. Initially calm “Aaahhh”-vocals develop into dynamic chants of a choir – powerful! ‘Gibu’ (“Gift”) makes you want to join in a mid tempo round dance around a huge campfire and clap your hands. ‘Solringen’ (“The Sun Ring”) creates a spirited atmosphere with the high twittering of birds and prominent bright female vocals, while ‘Sowelu’ (“Sun”) sets a spooky tone with howling wolves, horse whinnying, and haunting whispering next to melodic, beautiful female vocals. As the song progresses and gets more intense, Lindy Fay Hella then sings in the background completing male, more harsh vocals. The hymnal ‘Helvegen’ (“The Path to Hel”), which is essentially a funeral song, concludes this impressive album and our wanderings across Norse lands and its myths.

On the whole, the intense and captivating ‘Yggdrasil’ sounds alive, so earthy and yet also mythical, having a hypnotic and inspiring impact that does not only make you only hear things, but rather addresses all your senses. Such unique, awe inspiring music and effortful, eclectic recordings call for a ten out of ten! WARDRUNA's much longed-for chapter three of the ‘Runaljod’ will be entitled ‘Ragnarok’, which refers to the “final destiny of the gods”.


Tracklist

01. Rotlaust tre fell
02. Fehu
03. NaudiR
04. EhwaR
05. AnsuR
06. IwaR
07. IngwaR
08. Gibu
09. Solringen
10. Sowelu
11. Helvegen


Line-up

Einar Kvitrafn Selvik – Vocals and instruments
Kristian Espedal (aka Gaahl) – Vocals
Lindy Fay Hella – Vocals


Website

http://www.wardruna.com / https://www.facebook.com/Wardruna


Cover Picture

wardruna yggdrasil


Rating

Music: 10
Sound: 10
Total: 10 / 10





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