By RACHEL REEVES
Deeply inspired by Norse and Nordic traditions, Wardruna frontman (and ex-Gorgoroth drummer) Einar Selvik has long championed the region’s rich, spiritual and sometimes dark past. By infusing Wardruna’s beautiful folk metal with a potent blend of historical elements, Selvik has helped create a transportive musical experience that is often described as magical and timeless. Equally rooted in passion and technique, this unique and complex sound has continued to captivate fans for nearly two decades.
While completing the band’s triad of albums known as the ‘Runic Trilogy’ in 2016, Selvik continued to carry the torch for Norse tradition through his song and acting work on the History Channel’s TV series, Vikings. Never one to sit still for long, Selvik and Wardruna have begun a new journey with their upcoming album, Kvitravn. Speaking to Rue Morgue at a private conference held via Zoom, Selvik explained the inspiration for this new album, its place in the current global climate, and the historical threads that hold it all together.
After completing the nearly fifteen-year-long project that was Wardruna’s ‘Runic Trilogy,’ Selvik describes his mindset saying, “Coming out of that really intensive process and time period there was a void. It’s a combination of relief and depression. It was about finding a new direction. Finding out what it is I wanted to tell.”
Eternally inspired by the world around him, Selvik literally ventured outside seeking guidance and inevitably found his muse in nature herself: “The tradition of actively going out into a space and seeking sound, seeking songs or seeking answers, that is a very old animist way of expanding your knowledge,” he says. “I create a lot of my music while out walking. Nature is sacred. And sadly, that is something that we forgot. We started forgetting it a long time ago. It would benefit us all to find a way back to that sense. When I say sacred I don’t necessarily mean a religious or spiritual thing. It’s an attitude and can apply to all people regardless of their beliefs.”
While certainly similar to previous Wardruna albums in regard to its dedication to Norse history, traditional instruments and folk metal vibe, Selvik explains Kvitravn’s unique perspective saying, “The new album definitely wanders in the same landscape as the previous albums. It’s the same kind of thematics that dive into these animist traditions and nature based traditions. I would say this album goes more into the details. I go more in depth. And it’s an album that’s also dealing more with the human sphere. Making it perhaps a bit more personal.”
Along with Selvik’s candid discussion on Kvitravn, we were also treated to two acoustic performances by Selvik off of the new album. The first track Selvik played was titled ‘Munin.’ According to Selvik, the song is “named after one of Odin’s mythological ravens. These two ravens are sort of the animal personification of the human mind and memory and this was, of course, the memory bird.” Smooth and comforting, Selvik’s voice is undeniably intoxicating even in the digital realm of Zoom. Like a voice out of the mist singing tales of days long gone, his presence and passion are captivating.
Having boasted a rotating cast of talented musicians over the years, Wardruna fans will be happy to know that longtime collaborator Lindy-Fay Hella and Eilif Gundersen are still present on Kvitravn. Along with the band, Selvik called upon a small group of traditional Norweigan singers for one very special track: “These women who are singing on this song, they are really important in preserving this really ancient way of singing.” He continues, “They are the reason why it’s still alive. They are the reason why the next generation will be able to enjoy it as well.”
Dedicated fans of Wardruna and Selvik’s other projects will inevitably pick up on the album’s title. Having long ago adopted Kvitrafn as his stage name, Selvik’s interest in the subject runs deep. The word translates as ‘White Raven,’ and the concept is interesting in the way it has always been deeply personal to Selvik while simultaneously feeling more prescient than ever. Selvik dove into the layered context of the album’s name saying, “The raven itself is a very central figure in the Norse and Nordic myth landscape. It represents a bridge between the worlds. Both us and nature, but also to the other side whether it’s death or some mythic place. They represent a messenger. Then you have that combined with the sacred white animals. Whether it’s lions or elephants, serpents, reindeer or ravens, they have this prophetic thing to them. Very often their legends represent when these white animals come they represent some sort of drastic change, an enlightenment.”
Although recorded long before the global pandemic hit and originally scheduled for a summer 2020 release, the spiritual serendipity of Kvitravn’s inspiration and subject matter is certainly not lost on Selvik. With its focus on nature, animal spirits, and reconnecting to the world around us, the timing is perhaps oddly catered to Kvitravn’s message. Acknowledging the unintentional yet fascinating timing Selvik says, “It confirms this need that I see. I think it’s important that we start viewing ourselves as part of our surroundings, part of nature. Not the rulers. Because we aren’t even though we try really hard to be. This pandemic is proof that we aren’t. If things go too far to one direction, history has proved that a counter reaction will happen. These cycles, there are so many of them throughout the history of mankind.”
Kvitravn is now available to pre-order through Wardruna’s site and will be released on January 22, 2021. Wardruna has also announced a new tour schedule starting in April 2021. You can also hear more of Selvik’s work in the newly released video game, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.