For people unfamiliar with Wardruna, they were formed a decade ago by Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik in Norway. Their encapsulating use of ancient folk instruments alongside poetic metre and chanted lyrics written in Norwegian, Old Norse and Proto-Norse tongue is a mesmeric soundscape. Yggdrasil is the second collection in their Runaljod trilogy that began with the solemn “gap var Ginnunga”. The trilogy is a musical interpretation of the 24 runes of the elder futhark. Kvitrafn has arranged the compositions and sees Wardruna as a vessel to relay the message of these runes to the world.
Opening with pattering rain, running water, whispering wind and the lamenting caw of a solitary crow, “Rotlaust Tre Fel” paints a serene picture, before the foreboding drone chant brings an air of unease to the occasion. Gaahl’s singing then carries beautiful melody above the tribal percussions. On “Fehu” Lindy-Fay Hella’s higher octave harmonies are seamless and enchant the air. This is music that embraces the Pre Christian pagan heritage of Norway and northern Europe. In affirmation of this, Yggdrasil also features contributions from Icelandic composer Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson and Iceland’s leading rímur singer Steindór Andersen.
Some of the recording was done in locations and under circumstances of significance to each rune. For example, “NaudiR” – translated as Need, was recorded after 2 days of fasting and involved outdoor recording in freezing conditions to truly embrace the feeling. As the shamanic intonations echo through the forest you can feel the sentiment of need that drives pure creative energy. Throughout Yggdrasil, songs are woven as tapestries of sound. Each addition to the mix is a welcome layer towards a common goal. “AnsuR”is almost primordial with its invocations almost summoning a higher purpose. While not a fast song, the percussion on “IwaR” gallops horse-like and makes for an intriguing listen. Lindy’s marvelous sonance features prominently on the primeval “Solringen”. The use of counterpoint makes an impressive impact at this point of the album. One of the many album highlights, “Helvegen” closes this chapter of Runaljod on a solemn if not uplifting note as a fire crackles and the thunder rolls ominously.
This album needs to be absorbed as a complete piece of work. If you invest time in Yggdrasil, you will be rewarded with music that taps into your own emotions and gives due inspiration.
So far from the black metal background of the contributors yet possibly closer to those ideals than even the most stringent band could envisage. On Yggdrasil, Wardruna have shared eleven evocative refrains to take your being towards inner peace and solace of reflection; albeit via a slightly darker journey of enlightenment.
Rating : 9/10
Yggdrasil is released on 25th March 2013 via Indie Recordings
Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik
Lindy Fay Hella
1. Rotlaust tre fell