Kvitravn, meaning ‘White Raven,’ is the latest record from Wardruna. Following the Runaljod trilogy, Kvitravn deals with motifs of Northern sorcery, nature and animism, the mythology, Norse spirituality, and the relation between sage and songs.
Hailing from Norway and led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Einar Selvik, Wadruna pay homage to Nordic traditional instrumentation while combining elements of contemporary composition. Kvitravn features traditional singers led by Kirsten Bråten Berg and incorporates a wide range of traditional instruments such as the Taglharpa, Langeleik, Crwth, and a goat-horn. The result is an effort that explores familiar territory found in previous Wadruna records while deepening the sophistication of their sound.
“Synkverv” welcomes listeners to the world of Kvitravn. Beginning with an understated mood punctuated by soft, gentle singing, the song escalates quickly from there. The vocals change, progressing into a more robust style. Joined by a stringed instrument and the beat of a drum, “Synkverv” introduces a serene choir of singers that counterbalance the robust main vocals.
Finally, hints of a bowed instrument are in isolated with the drum and then more singing. The song flows like a sweeping and expansive burst of nature and ending with the choir of vocalists singing as if part of a ceremony of sorcery.
“Kvitravn” begins with the call of a raven. Selvik’s commanding vocals, accompanied by bowed instrumentation, percussion, and a deep horn, combine to create a fantastic landscape of sound. The voice of Berg and the sound of her traditional backup singers are incredibly beautiful and sublime. There is a deep feeling of magic within this track, found in the low, slow, and heavy sounds. It is as if one is witness to ancient wisdom and mysticism.
With the sound of wind, “Skugge” begins atmospherically. The subdued, bowed instrument, subdued at first, creates a serious mood and given greater weight by the choir singing solemnly. The track escalates and progresses in tempo, instilling a feeling of purpose, clarity, and strength.
The drumbeat and stringed instrumentation pick up in a way that is empowering to hear, much like a myth. Towards the end, “Skugge” turns into a bustling, rowdy, and lively. The song concludes where it began, with the sound of the wind, giving this song a circular structure like an Ouroboros.
“Grá” begins with Selvik’s clear and deep singing on top of a drum beat and other percussions. What follows is an interchange between Selvik’s singing with Berg and her traditional singers. The counterbalanced vocals give this track a ritualistic and magical quality. “Munin” is the name of one of Odin’s ravens and means memory.
Featuring stringed and bowed instruments, the symphonic composition redefines orchestral and classically sounding music by reimagining it as a traditional Norse take on that. The song ends with minimalistic strumming and soothing singing, lending this track folkish qualities. “Munin” sounds like multiple songs in one, each encompassing different innovative styles.
Strange, animalistic sounds followed by a clear, striking horn begin “Kvit.” The drumbeat creates a feeling like this song is mustering energies. The horn and drum are joined by a bowed instrument, lead vocals, and understated backup singing.
There is a meditative quality to this deliberate buildup of different instruments joining in at different times. The powerful, feminine singing on “Viseveiding” has an ambient quality and gives this song a spiritual quality.
“Ni” is a slow-paced song, introducing a call-and-response exchange between vocalists not long after the song begins. A flute accompanies the singer, lending this song a lively atmosphere. It’s as if listening to a soundtrack of traditional life in the ancient North.
The bowed instrumentation on “Vindavlarljod” lends dark fantasy and witchy qualities to this song. “Fylgjutal” progresses slowly towards a galloping pace. There is something semi-modern in that it is a heavy headbanger. “Andervarljod,” clocking in at just over 10 minutes, is the longest song on the album. The percussive sound effect sounds like a hammer banging against metal. The soft chorus and sublime vocals are gorgeous, concluding both the song and record beautifully.
Kvitravn is out now through By Norse Music here.