24 October 2013
Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London
A trip to London’s Southbank Centre to the Queen Elizabeth Hall was in order for a rare sighting of Norway’s Wardruna. The band is essentially a project of Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik, perhaps better known by metalheads for his stints drumming with Gorgoroth and Sahg amongst others. The project centres on the use of the oldest of Nordic instruments and poetic metres as well as lyrics written in Norwegian, Old Norse and Proto-Norse tongue. Guitars are absent, however the presence of a certain Gaahl as one of the vocalist further links the band to the metal world in more than just atmosphere.
Earlier this year Wardruna released their second album in an on-going ‘Runaljod’ trilogy which comprises a musical rendition of the 24 runes in the elder futhark. Whilst it can’t be certain what original Viking music actually sounded like, Wardruna’s interpretations certainly invoked a highly believable atmosphere in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Seated on a fur covered stool Kvitrafn was central to proceedings, taking a lead role vocally and playing melodies on a tagelharpe. To his left, the familiar figure of Gaahl provided vocals, stood with a dead eyed stare. At the other side of the stage the other core member, Lindy-Fay Hella, provided female vocals and played what looked like a penny whistle. In the live setting the band were augmented with an additional female vocalist, together with a further two instrumentalists, playing amongst other things deer-hide frame drums.
With evocative lighting Wardruna’s music took on an almost hypnotic effect that ebbed and flowed between quiet nature like soundscapes and rising to crescendo’s of choir like vocals and cries. The all seated, and definitely mainly metal crowd played their part in the highbrow nature of the event by politely clapping at appropriate breaks, saving any cheers for the performances conclusion.
This was certainly a different evening’s entertainment to a usual metal show, though no less powerful in its own way. I’d highly recommend checking Wardruna out live should you have the opportunity.