A perfect offering for Earth Day, Norse legends Wardruna have released a majestic two-part album titled Kvitravn – First Flight of the White Raven. The first 11 songs are a re-release of Kvitravn which debuted in 2021 and scored numerous international chart entries, while the remaining 13 songs are live recordings consisting of new songs from Kvitravn as well as old favorites from across the band’s discography. Everything fans enjoy about Wardruna is present here including a use of traditional and historical instruments such as Kravik-lyre, Trossingen-lyre, Taglharpa, Sootharp, Langeleik, Crwth, Goat-horn, Lur, Bronze-lur, flute, and Moraharpa. This album also features guest vocals by a small group of prominent traditional singers, elevating the compositions’ worldly and historical feel while adding a dynamic beauty. With lyrical themes and matching atmospheric elements centering on Northern sorcery, spirit-animals, shadows, nature and animism, the wisdom and meanings of certain myths, various Norse spiritual concepts, Kvitravn – First Flight of the White Raven is a deep and prolific artistic release capturing the splendor of Northern nature and culture.
The production of this release is stunning. Each instrument and vocal piece are front and center and woven together to create a rich and delightfully dramatic tapestry. The two halves blend seamlessly as the overall energy of each track contains that of a live performance with the production of a mastered studio album. There is no jarring separation and atmosphere and is consistent throughout. There’s a passion and depth to Kvitravn – First Flight of the White Raven that makes for an elevated and strong release from Wardruna. Multi-instrumentalist and front man Einar Selvik explains that “…although this album is in a sense more personal and more down to earth than before, it is also quite obscure. I delve into the philosophical, the esoteric, the Nordic myths and how these old traditions define human nature and nature itself.” Selvik mentions that “kvitravn” translates to “white raven” and he also calls this his artist name hence the personal expression felt in these tracks. The music encapsulates these themes through utilization of traditional instruments, vocal variety, and atmospheric sounds of nature which are sprinkled in throughout the tracks.
One of my favorite tracks featured on this album is “Solringen” which means “the ring of sun.” It was originally released in 2013 but this live version presents a new take as well as a new music video of the performance. The song begins with the quiet chirping of birds before the addition of light drumming played on branches. A Norwegian wooden flute is introduced, then harmonic humming vocals. Seeing the song performed live in the video is an entrancing experience. It is interesting and very cool to see these unique instruments played. The stage is adorned and complete with imagery of grass and branches gently waving in the wind in the background. The high contrast lighting adds dramatics while highlighting the talented musicians as the music unfolds and surrounds.
Kvitravn – First Flight of the White Raven is a mystifying album that takes listeners to the shores and forests of Norway. The live portion of the album, especially, has this effect as the performances captivate and showcase the talents of Wardruna. I had the lovely experience of fully immersing myself in this album on a spring day full of rain showers and passing moments of sunshine. The natural elements to Kvitravn – First Flight of the White Raven honor the past as well as tradition while creating new grandeur in the present.