The forthcoming and fifth album from Wardruna, Kvitravn, will be released on January 22, 2021. Kvitravn musically continues where the Runaljod trilogy left off, yet it marks a distinct evolution in Wardruna’s unique sound. In a rich musical tapestry, Wardruna use a broad selection of both traditional and historical instruments such as Kravik-lyre, Trossingen-lyre, Taglharpa, Sootharp, Langeleik, Crwth, Goat- horn, Lur, Bronze-lur, flute, Moraharpa, and the record also features guest appearances by a small group of prominent traditional singers, spearheaded by Kirsten Bråten Berg, one of the most important custodians of Norwegian traditional song. Throughout eleven songs, Kvitravn discusses Northern sorcery, spirit-animals, shadows, nature and animism, the wisdom and meanings of certain myths, various Norse spiritual concepts, and the relation between sage and songs.
In which way is Kvitravn a new beginning for you after the preceding album trilogy?
I see Kvitravn as a continuation rather than a new beginning. The Runaljod trilogy was such an all-consuming project that took me around fifteen years to finish and during that time there were of course a lot of ideas that was set aside for later. At first, I must admit that it was a bit challenging and overwhelming to suddenly have such a wealth of possibilities for the next project but once the focus and direction was decided there was no looking back. In many ways, this album deals with the same Nordic animistic themes as the trilogy but I would say that it dives more into detail on certain traditions, concepts and myths.
Did your solo work in any way change your perspective on Wardruna’s music?
Well, generally speaking I would say that Wardruna is something organic that will continue to grow and evolve through everything we experience and learn. When I started giving lectures, workshops and solo concerts, it gave me a lot of new insights and perspectives on both my own singing, on the older poetic traditions as well as performance itself.
Do you have an explanation for the worldwide interest in Scandinavian folklore and the accompanying traditional music having been created in recent years?
First of all, I would not say that there has been a very big increase of what I would define as Nordic traditional music. However, in the last five years there has for sure been a large growth of bands that make music inspired by older Nordic and Norse traditions and cultural themes as well as making use of historical instrumentation.
When it comes to the massive contemporary interest and fascination for Nordic history, folklore and culture I think there are several reasons for it. I believe there are many people around the world who seek some sort of connectiveness to nature and towards traditions more aligned with nature and animistic ideas. The Norse culture was left alone from Rome and the Vatican for almost 1000 years longer than the rest of Europe, thus got to keep and develop our ways much longer. Also, the conversion to Christianity was not a grassroot movement but one that came from the top – meaning that most people kept their ways for a very long time. This makes the many of the pre-Christian traditions up here in the North much more accessible and “closer” than in many other cultures. So, I believe that for many people the interest for the Norse is in many ways functioning as a sort of gateway to other animistic ad pre-Christian traditions – because the similarities between such nature-based cultures is simply striking when going far enough back in time.
How does songwriting generally go about in the Wardruna camp?
I write and find most of my inspiration when I am out walking. That is sort of my muse and when I most often envision the songs. Sometimes a song can be born out of working with my instruments or words and concepts. Sometimes the theme of a song has such a strong “image” to it that I instantly hear the sound of it. Then it I go back into the studio and start “chasing” down the song.
How much do you improvise, how much of your music is strictly composed?
There is quite a lot of improvising going in in the process of chasing a song. I don’t work with “normal” song structures but aim to let the song take me where it wants to go rather than me forcing it into a predetermined grid.
Are you specifically inspired by other bands or artists or does the subject matter you are dealing with direct what you create musically?
I wouldn’t say that there are specific artists or bands that I draw inspiration from directly, but we are all in one way or another inspired by the various forms of culture we are exposed to. I generally don’t listen much to music at all since I work so much with it all the time. But when I do it is very often Nordic traditional music or various types of indigenous music.
Where do you source the many traditional instruments from that you use. Do you build them yourselves?
When I started working with Wardruna around twenty years ago there was very little interest or information about many of the instruments I use. Luckily there were still some builders of some of them. Others I was forced to either build myself or have someone else build them for me. I did both and went through a solid “trial and error” process where I made quite a few shitty instruments along the way. These days the interest for these instruments has grown evenly with my decrease in time to spare for instrument building and so I luckily have some great people that make instruments for me now.
How do the cover art, lyrical content and title interconnect?
Ravens and their place or function in folklore, myth and symbolism as well as ideas around sacred white animals – are recurring themes on the album and blend well with the artwork I would say.
How did your collaboration with Kirsten Bråten Berg come about, and did she actively contribute in writing?
I have had the chance to meet and perform alongside Kirsten a few years back and I also know her daughter Sigrid who is also one of the featured singers on the song Andvevarljod. When I was working on the song, I could clearly envision having a choir of traditional female singers in it. I asked Sigrid if she would be up for helping me gather some people and thankfully, she was very much up for the task and arranged for a fantastic group of prominent singers – including her mother and the living legend Kirsten. Their role was performative and wasn’t part of the actual song writing.
A lot has been said about the meditative character and healing qualities of repetitive music, drumming, mantras and so on; do you follow this also with scientific interest?
Yes, most certainly. The conviction and knowledge and about the undisputable medicinal (among other) effects of song (both singing and being sung to), soundwaves in various frequencies, rhythm has been around since ancient times and is strongly backed by both science and logics. For me it is essential in all my work to seek an understanding of not only “what” but also the “how” and “why”. Magic is real but the modern conception of what magic/sorcery is or was, is very often misguided and colored by certain religions as well as influence of the various pop culture version of magic or sorcery.
For artists with a metal background: What makes Wardruna so appealing to this scene?
I think the metal scene has always been drawn to this type of aesthetics and to ancient cultures. Also, from a musical perspective, our songs are very melodic which is also very central in many forms of metal. There is also a clear relation between tonality of metal, classical music as well as Nordic folk music so all in all I find it very logical why our music might appeal to someone who is into metal.
Where do you go from here? What would be the logical follow-up to Kvitravn?
There will of course be more albums in the future but at this point it will also be both good and healthy to catch my breath for a while before entering into another creative deep dive. It has been a long and very intense period now with both creating this album as well as the Assassins Creed Valhalla soundtrack. But who knows?! These things are also hard to fully control.
Compiled By Rob Lyon
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