Saturday, 19 January 2019

Wardruna "Skald" (2018)

Having enjoyed the Nordic ambience and cultural folk of Runaljod, I brought this album without a first listen. Its a departure from what I remember as Skald trades off depth and indulgence for a grounded minimalism that far better represents what this may have one sounded like. Einar Selvik stands as a dominate presence, a lone ancestral voice to guide us through the echos of heritage and its accompanying instrumentation, of which there is little. Naked and bare, his language is sung with inflections and an honest rawness to invoke what may have been in centuries past.

Purely by impression, his performance resembles runic scriptures and handed down heathen hymns. The poetry of cultures lost to time. His lone voice holds strong as simple single stringed instrument melodies repeat to set the tone. Only on Vindavla do the instruments switch to bring a darker, tense tone as the Lute alike instrument mostly delivers soothing and warm music. One can envision Nordic ancestors sat around a campfire as they exchange stories and sing poetry together.

At its end the record dulls with a fifteen minute accapella. His isolated voice not as charming alone. On my first few listens I struggled to be sucked in to this world but with patience it grew a little. The fault is probably with my own preferences as a richer instrumentation would have lured me in and cultural hymns are often not to my liking through human voice alone. It is however a remarkable performance in the right mood, a soothing and spiritual listen that will evoke historical echos of our humanity.

Rating: 5/10