Wardruna - Runaljod - Gap Var Ginnunga
Indie Recordings
12 songs (51'56")
Release year: 2009
Indie Recordings
Reviewed by Alex

For years I have heard about Wardruna, this mystical entity, but only the recent re-release by Indie Recordings of their first album Runaljod – Gap Var Ginnunga forced me to look deeper into them. I knew, vaguely, that notorious Gaahl was involved with Wardruna, but it is actually Einar Selvik, aka Kvitrafn (Jotunspor, Sahg, some involvement with Gorgoroth), who is the main composer, instrumentalist and mastermind of Wardruna. The third member of this collective is female vocalist Lindy Fay Hella, and together the trio, plus some invited musicians, creates the music which can only be called ancient Norse folk. Even though Wardruna members have undeniable connections with Norwegian black metal scene, Gap Var Ginnunga, the first in the series of three Runaljod albums, has very little to do with metal at all. With deep introspection and the help of some unusual instruments, drafting their lyrics in Norwegian, old Norse and proto-Norse, Wardruna takes the exploration of the roots of the Scandinavian folk to the unique, personal and deeply intuitive level.

To me, trying to understand Gap Var Ginnunga and rationalize it afterwards is a futile task. You have to feel this album, and you have to be pretty patient to get on the same page with it, since Wardruna is not your most dynamic entity. Some compositions here are nothing more than brief sketches (Loyndomsriss), or short forays into tracks across swamps (Thurs) or shaman incantations (Kauna). Often, after violins or some other unknown to me string instruments stop playing (Ar var alda), nothingness still reigns or compositions take half way through them for percussion to pick up, for the pulse to fasten, until we are away to the xylophone (or something along these lines) playing some windswept mysterious melody (Hagal). I could describe hearing longing horn sounds (Heimta Thurs, Dagr), tribal deer-hide strewn drums (Heimta Thurs, Hagal), some recording taking place with nature sounds in the background (Jara), walking in the woods (Algir – Tognatale) or towards the sea. Droning vocals of elders (Bjarkan), nature fairies joining them later, the innocent choir (Jara), sad melody and lamentations (Laukr) – vocals seem to play the part of just another instrument on this voyage of mystery and history combined. Yet again, whatever my descriptions are, they are incapable of entirely painting the landscapes Wardruna creates.

I do not pretend to understand the meaning of the lyrics on Gap Var Ginnunga, and what those runes Wardruna is trying to explain to us actually mean. So, free to create my own interpretations, the album has a serious calming effect on me, taking the mundane daily worries and reality away, allowing me to dream with the eyes wide open. The voice of Wardruna is sure ancient and tribal, but for me it is not evil, letting the nature spirits come for a visit, or a dance (Dagr), just like they would when I am listening to a Native American music. Wardruna would be much more at home in the “world music” aisle, and I can see some metalheads shaking their heads at this collection of sounds. I do not pretend to be in love with every note on the album (I guess that may explain the quote), but I can see how and why Gap Var Ginnunga was chosen to be a soundtrack to History Channel’s Viking series. This is music from someone deeply in touch with that reality and deeply respectful of it, so now they have decided they will share it with the world.

Killing Songs :
Hagal, Heimta Thurs, Jara, Laukr, Dagr
Alex quoted 77 / 100
Other albums by Wardruna that we have reviewed:
Wardruna - Yggdrasil reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
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