Review: Wardruna ‘Kvitravn – First Flight Of The White Raven’

Remember when a yearning for being a Viking was only for metalheads and medieval reenactors, instead of wildly misinformed racists and gym bros? I do. T’was a simpler time. Purveyors of incredibly authentic Viking folk, Wardruna, have been at the front of the line in the reinvigoration of this sound, and their new live record, Kvitravn –  The First Flight Of The White Raven, is officially released this Friday, 10th June through Music For Nations. It captures Wardruna as a ‘virtual live experience’, recorded in a studio and broadcast online during the pandemic as a release show for their Kvitravn release last year.

Wardruna 'Kvitravn - First Flight Of The White Raven'

I was first taken with Wardruna‘s work on their debut record, Runaljod – Gap Var Ginnunga, which was mainly due to the appearance of then Gorgoroth frontman Gaahl, but I was immediately hooked. Kvitravn – First Flight Of The White Raven covers music from all of their records, from the haunting title track of 2021’s beautiful Kvitravn, to the evocative and uplifting Solringen from Runaljod – Yggdrasil. If you’ve never come across this before, there is a huge amount of respect and authenticity put into each track, using traditional instruments along with skaldic poetry and singing for the vocals. It creates an initially jarring sound for those uninitiated but soon becomes an often poignant soundtrack from a millennium past.

an essential work for fans of Nordic folk…

Kvitravn – The First Flight Of The White Raven is an incredibly immersive experience, presented unedited from the studio broadcast. Remarkably seamless, flowing from track to track with nary a break in sight, each layer of music building upon the next. The sinister rumblings of Raido, punctuated with flute and strings, is a personal favourite of mine, but as a single experience, I find it hard to pick particular tracks to stand out. The whole piece feels like its meant to be enjoyed as a whole, uninterrupted and respectfully. Wardruna have always felt a very serious proposition, reverent and solemn, and tracks like the mournful acoustics and bared-soul vocals of Voluspá and the late, energising tribal pound of Rotlaust Tre Fell really show this dedication.

My father spent much of the early pandemic doing ancestry work to keep himself busy, coincidentally discovering family links back to the Jarls of Orkney as I rediscovered my love of Wardruna. Music of this ilk really helped me soundtrack my last two years in and out of lockdowns. Kvitravn – The First Flight Of The White Raven is an essential work for fans of Nordic folk, and those looking to try it out. This is the progenitor, the originator, and still the finest example of it out there. Absorb yourself into a thatched house, with a crackling fire and a skald to accompany you on the darkest of nights.

Label: Music For Nations
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Sandy Williamson