Review: Wardruna “Kvitravn – First Flight of the White Raven” [By Norse Music / Music For Nations / Columbia Germany]

Review: Wardruna “Kvitravn – First Flight of the White Raven” [By Norse Music / Music For Nations / Columbia Germany]

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Gather round for another ceremony of rune magic and folk songs around a campfire. Wardruna give us one more offering of their magical Nordic folk, with 11 new studio tracks and 13 live tracks, some from this album and others from previous records. That’s all you need for a full immersion.

This intro described the overall feel of the album, but that’s not all that needs to be said. Some songs feel like an old folky jam, with the instruments playing around and the singers letting their voices wander around wordless vocalizations, while others have a more typical song structure. Either way, there’s some real effort to make the instruments and vocals sound good and to create interesting sounds and melodies.

There is a certain melancholy to this, but also sweetness. The title track, for example, manages to feel both dark and oddly welcoming at the same time. It has verses and choruses, and some vocalizations, so it’s a pretty good blend of the two styles used by the album. The first song, “Synkverv”, sounds more gentle, and uses more vocalizations than lyrics, as does “Munin”, another song about a mythical raven. “Kvit Hjort” has sinister flutes and melancholic echo-y, choir-y vocals and some nice violins. “Skugge” is built on slightly sinister violins and more solemn choir vocals, though the last part has a more frantic (compared to the rest of the album, I mean), incantation-like vocal delivery. “Grá” also feels like Einar Selvik is reciting an incantation while Lindy-Fay Hella’s vocalizations soar above him. Her best vocal moments, however, would have to be the intro and chorus of “Viseveiding”, one the faster and almost rock-leaning tracks on the album, which also has some of the best flute parts.

Wardruna also uses all the opportunities provided by having two singers, by creating an interesting contrast between Einar’s low-pitched, somber voice (his own best vocal parts would have to be the incantation-like “Grá” and “Ni” or the more passionate “Vindavlarjod”) and Lindy’s high, soaring, slightly nasal voice. Her voice sounds strange but in a good way and she tends to go all the way with her vocal performance. It’s a key ingredient to Wardruna’s distinctive sound. Another part of their distinctive and immersive style are the nature sounds on various tracks, for example, wind and a raven’s croaking on “Kvitravn”, fire on “Ni” or rain on “Skugge” and “Fylgjutal”.

As for some other good things on this album: the live tracks are some of the highlights among the new songs, and other highlights from previous albums, which are always a joy to hear. “Bjarkan” and “Solringen” were the two first Wardruna songs I ever heard, where I was immediately fascinated by the former’s soaring vocals and the latter’s mix of the two vocalists singing different lines together. Luckily, both are on the live part of the album.

This album has a very special, immersive feel, perfect for a daydream. It was pleasant to listen to and to review. It wouldn’t necessarily be an album I’d listen to all the time. I feel like many of my descriptions of the song were very repetitive, and all these neofolk songs begin to blur together. I guess that’s because I’m not familiar with that style, so maybe 24 songs in that style would be a little much, and not the kind of experiment I’d repeat every day. But I have more dignity than to just give this a negative review simply because it’s not my usual genre of music. Despite this, and the repetitiveness, this album is pretty well made, and I can’t think of anything it does obviously wrong. It sounds very good, and it was definitely an enjoyable experience. Regardless of your own musical preferences, it’s definitely a good album that deserves to be heard, and it will charm you if you let it.

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