Wardruna & Einar Selvik


Key Facts

Country: 🇳🇴
Formed: 2003
Genre: Nordic Folk, Ambient/Dark Folk
Record Label(s): Indie Recordings, By Norse Music
Album Releases; 4 
FFO; Heilung, Byrdi, Nytt Land

Main band members;
Einar "Kvitrafn" Selvik – vocals, all instruments, composer
Lindy Fay Hella – vocals, flute

Other band members;
Arne Sandvoll
HC Dalgaard
Eilif Gundersen
Jørgen Nyrønning

Bio

Formed in 2003 in Bergen, Norway by Einar Selvik (a.k.a Kvitrafn) and Gaahl (who were both previous members of Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth) alongside Lindy Fay Hella. Wardruna are dedicated to creating musical interpretations and renditions of the Norse esoteric and cultural traditions. With the Runaljod trilogy of albums being based on the old runes, and most recent release Skald being based on the sayings of Odin and the famous Norse poem Völuspá. To make their music Wardruna rely heavily on traditional nordic folk instruments, which consist of primitive deer-hide frame drums, flutes, kraviklyr, tagelharpe, mouth harp, goat horn and lur. Einar has also stated that the band use sounds and objects from their environment as unconventional instruments, these consist of  trees, rocks, water and torches. "All of these elements are carefully woven into a rich musical landscape and complemented with whispering voices, melodic song and mighty choirs." (Wardruna, 2013). With all the lyrics in Old Norse and Preto-Norse the band creates authentic, atmospheric and unique music.

Einar Selvik has also gone on to work with Ivar Bjornsson (guitarist for black metal band Enslaved) on Skuggsjá and Hugsjá which encapsulates many of the same themes found in Wardruna, and has worked alongside Trevor Morris on the soundtrack(s) to History Channel's Vikings.

Key Albums

Runaljod – Gap Var Ginnunga (Sound of Runes – The Gap Was Vast)

Released: 2009
Label(s): Indie Recordings, Fimbulljóð Productions

"Ever since the first runemasters started to carve their ‘charged’ signs thousands of years ago, the runes has had a strong symbolic value and has also gone hand in hand with knowledge and insights of some sort, often esoteric. Besides being a writing system the Norse mythology speaks of the runes as knowledge of divine origin – reginkunnr. In Hávamál, Odin – the god of wisdom – tells how he sacrificed himself to himself, hung from the world tree Yggdrasil, while pierced by his own spear Gungnir for nine whole nights. In this death-transcending state of mind, at one with the great gap (Ginnungagap), he found the runes and learned their meanings." (Selvik, 2009)


Runaljod – Yggdrasil (The Sound of Runes - Yggdrasil)

Released; 2013
Label(s): Indie Recordings, Fimbulljóð Productions

The second chapter of the Runaljod trilogy focuses more on Norse Spirituality. Songs from these album featured in seasons 2 and 3 of History Channel's Vikings and satirically on Netflix's Norsemen. "The song (and album) closes with the famous stanza from Hávamál: "Cattle die, kinsmen die, You yourself will also die, but the word about you will never die, if you win a good reputation. Cattle die, kinsmen die, You yourself will also die, I know one that never dies: the judgement of those who died""

Runaljod – Ragnarok (The Sound of Runes - Apocalypse)

Released; 2016
Label(s): Indie Recordings/By Norse Music

As the final chapter of the trilogy, it is fitting that it should have the title Ragnarok, when all the gods go to war against Sutur and the children of Loki. It definitely has a sense of doom and mourning at the destruction of the Earth and rounds of the trilogy perfectly. 




Skald

Released; 2018
Label(s); Indie Recordings/By Norse Music

"Skald takes the listener on a musical journey outside the massive soundscape that Wardruna is known for and into a simpler and more direct form, where voice, poetry and ancient instruments like Kravik-lyre, Taglharpa and Bukkehorn lead the way." Einar Selvik comments: "Skald was recorded live in the studio with the intention of capturing the raw and uncompromising energy of a live performance rather than aiming for a flawless and polished expression. It sets out to give voice to the ancient craft that once lay at the heart of the Norse oral traditions, presented as it takes shape in the hands of a humble contemporary skald today." (Wardruna, 2018)

Einar Selvik - Snake Pit Poetry

Released; 2017
Label(s): N/A

"The song features the extraordinary talent of Icelandic singer Hilda Örvarsdottir, a featured soloists on film scores such as Man of Steel (Hans Zimmer), The Eagle, Babylon AD, Mortal Instruments, Colette (Atli Örvarsson) and 300: Rise of an Empire (Junkie XL). "Snake Pit Poetry", written for History Channel's VIKINGS and Ragnar Lothbrok's fatal encounter with a Northumbrian Snake pit in season IV" (Selvik, 2017)

The song is based on, Krákumál or the Lay of Kraka which is a Skaldic poem and looks back on the life of heroic deeds led by Ragnar Lothbrok as he lays dying in King Ælla's snake pit.

Favourite Song

This is a hard one for me, but it has to be Helvegen off of Runaljod - Yggdrasil, mainly for this rendition in a cave with Norwegian singer Aroura.




How They Inspire Me

I believe my discovery of Wardruna does all come down to me watching History Channel's Vikings. I was aware of the Viking age in history but I never knew much about it, so I gave the series a shot and little did I know it would spark a passion and love for Viking and Scandinavian history and language that I am endlessly lost in. As a Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones fan, I am a lover of great soundtracks, so once I watched Vikings I dug round to find the music of the series and alas, that is where I find Einar's name alongside Trevor Morris's. 


From a general listening perspective, my spiritual mind thinks that this was no random encounter, as Wardruna's music has a strange cosmic effect on me. I can always seem to find peace of mind when listening to them as well as taking in the imagery that Einar and Lindy create for me. When I found Wardruna I was at a particularly strange point in my life where I felt so disconnected with the world, nothing was in sync, and I needed fresh inspiration.

I'd always been drawn to folk music similar but slightly different to Wardruna, as my dad introduced me to Celtic music like Clannad and Enya alongside the work of Ronan Hardiman (The Lord of The Dance) and Bill Whelan (Riverdance), I would later go on to discover Canadian singer Loreena McKennit and the Soctish equivalent to Clannad, Capercaillie. I believe this is what slowly started my interest in old and native languages as Gaelic and Welsh were the first that I had heard that didn't have any root in Germanic languages. Despite this, the Old Norse being sung to me connected instantly and I become infatuated by this world the Wardruna was interpreting.

What I love the most about Wardruna is the effort and dedication needed to pull off an ambitious project like this. Einar is an amazing composer and visionary in my eyes, especially with the attention to detail in all the traditional instruments and lyrical themes in the songs. They've inspired me to delve very deeply into Norse culture and history. Since then I've learned how much impact the Vikings had on the world, especially in my native country of England and the United Kingdom and Ireland as a whole. I've read myths, sagas and academic texts all off the back of this inspiration. Even though it is an interpretation of music from that age it genuinely feels like it could be the actual music from that age, with the depth and detail that has gone into it. 

From a music and production standpoint, in summary, the music is very well written and is produced perfectly. The atmospheres, lyrics and melodies have inspired my own song writing endlessly, they made me really think about the messages and stories I want to tell and get the listener to invest in. I never want to write cliche songs about love and life, so this is a very important aspect for me as someone who regularly tunes out to monotonous mainstream popular music. When I try to conceptualise my own ideas I use music like Wardruna's to soundtrack my ideas and help focus and concentrate them. The studio production of the Runaljod trilogy is nothing short of breathtaking, the sheer size of the music engulfs you, my favourite moments listening to these albums was the drive us to Pen y Fan and Corn Du in the Brecon Beacons and the drive into Cheddar Gorge. The music seemed to escalate as the mountains dow closer and the cliffs rose higher. Part of believes that that spiritual experience is what Wardruna aim for. So when Skald was released, it was a stripped back version of Wardruna but was still hauntingly beautiful and raw.

Artists and their music very rarely leave a lasting impact on you and open you up to this entirely new world in this day and age in the way that Wardruna have for me. I will continually endorse the work of Einar Selvik to everyone, as it has a special place in my heart considering the place I was in when I found them. Spurring that imagination and creative fire in me to pursue that which I don't fully understand and to find my own meaning as well as the intended meaning in everything. As haunting and mystical as they are, Wardruna bring warmth and wonder to the minds and hearts of so many people.




References

Wardruna, 2013, Wardruna Biography 2013http://www.wardruna.com/about/

Selvik, E., 2009, Runaljod – Gap Var Ginnunga, http://www.wardruna.com/runaljod/gap-var-ginnunga/

Wardruna, Völundarhúsins, F., 2019, Wardruna - Helvegen Lyricshttp://freya.theladyofthelabyrinth.com/?page_id=493


Selvik, E., 2017, Snake Pit Poetryhttps://einarselvik.bandcamp.com/album/snake-pit-poetry

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