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Wardruna – Runaljod: Ragnarok

By Norse

Wardruna - Runaljod: RagnarokWadruna are something pretty unique in the world of extreme music. Formed in 2003 by Gorgoroth‘s Einar Selvik, they are possibly the truest expression of all things Norse currently available in popular music form. A million miles from the awesomely campy Viking histrionics of Turisas, Wardruna offer a far more measured, esoteric and respectful take on Nordic history and culture. Using traditional instruments alongside the more conventional, they evoke a not-quite lost world of ancient gods and warriors.

Runaljod – Ragnarok is the concluding part of their Runaljod triptych, following Runaljod gap var Ginnunga and Runaljod – Yggdrasil to complete their epic quest to create music for each of the runes. And it’s a humdinger, as you’d expect from the title – you could easily imagine Fenris (not the one from Darkthrone) chowing down on the moon to this as brother fights with brother at the end of days. Where Yggdrasil was dominated by percussion to create wonderful mantric atmospheres, Ragnarok is more dynamic, with moments more intimate and more majestic.

The relatively understated “UruR” (Uruz being the rune of strength) drives along like some unstoppable beast, the relentlessness of Swans pressed to service in the use of a more ancient power. And had he not rather famously composed his own music, one could almost imagine Wagner when in a Nordic frame of mind wanting to use “MannaR – Drivande” (humanity and the self) to score the funeral of Siegfried, all wailing (goat?) horn, pounding drums and scraping tagelharpe over the sound of the sea. “MannaR-Liv”, with its keys and thundering drums, comes on like a less fey and ethereal Dead Can Dance, a Dead Can Dance who are bound to the Earth and would happily fight you for it — a theme taken up in “Odal” (homeland), in which ancestral estates are protected by a choir of children.

Like the Futhark itself, every element or track is alive with history, meaning and magic. Taken as a whole, Wardruna have given us an entire alphabet of beautiful and at times overpowering music which is above all unique. Which means, not to put too fine a point on it, in interpreting the runes they have pretty much created an entire new sonic language.

A magnificent end to a gloriously worthy project, I very much hope this really isn’t Ragnarok for Wardruna, and that now, armed with their bag of runes, they will continue to journey into the past for musical wisdom to aid the future. Go on. Get the lot. Bung ’em on shuffle.

Cast the runes.

-Justin Farrington-

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