January 6, 2022 — Einar Selvik is a name any folk music household should know, a multi-instrumentalist, probably best known for his work in Wardruna. Leaving the world of the artist-driven music industry, Selvik as of late has found himself composing soundtracks for Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla?
One of the best aspects of the video game Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (which we reviewed here) besides the brutal combat, semi-realistic game locations, Norse lore, and expansive game world, was the soundtrack. The game, released in 2020, featured original songs composed under the watchful eye of Einar Selvik, the black metal rooted artist turned folk musician to become the mastermind behind Norwegian neofolk act Wardruna.
“For fans of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla’s other soundtrack, this is not a bad extension but listeners will already have heard the best it has to give.”
Lakeshore Records in partnership with Ubisoft Music released Einar Selvik’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: The Weft of Spears (from Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Original Game Soundtrack), available now digitally on all major music services worldwide! Listen now on Apple Music, Spotify and more. Purchase link below.
Weft Of Spears is a 6 song EP composed by Selvik that did not make the cut into the game’s original soundtrack. Inspired by a part of Norse culture based on Skaldic tradition, it is possible casual listeners will not get the full experience. It is hard to connect to something so far outside your own culture, no matter how interesting it is and Weft Of Spears may miss its emotional mark with many.
Leading with ‘Traust ok Svikráð – Trust and Treachery’, it is easy to hear where Dungeons & Dragons background music finds its roots. While it may be set in a similar location, unlike Jeremy Soule’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim soundtrack, Weft Of Spears is not orchestral. It features a few instruments, which are harder to place.
All of the instruments played throughout Weft Of Spears are traditional. The use of talharpa to open the track is present throughout but there is also heavy use of flute alongside a bukkehorn, drums, and vocals. This lends Weft Of Spears a legitimacy that most video game soundtracks, particularly those set in period settings do not have (something the Assassin’s Creed soundtracks of late have been good at.)
‘Traust ok Svikráð – Trust and Treachery’ itself feature a slow build of strings and pagan chanting in combination with its traditional instruments to create a sense of foreboding. It is sad though this builds to a crescendo that never comes, simply dropping the track after 4 minutes and 44 seconds of tension. There are some nice elements, but the song does not go anywhere in terms of typical storytelling.
Track 2, ‘Hrafnakall – The Raven’s Call’ opens with an interesting instrument I cannot place. It sounds like a motorcycle and it, alongside the raven’s cries and intensely echoed vocals drives a sense of atmospheric, apocalyptic presence. Selvik’s vocals themselves are beautiful. They are sorrowful and desperate and their pitch stands out well alongside the drums and drones of the backing. Towards the end these vocals are exaggerated by some heavy breathing and some stunning soaring singing, ending in a pained and exasperated, gritty wail. Hrafnakall is a breathtaking piece and is the standout track on the EP. Its emotions are on clear display, like an axe being brought to your face.
Unexpectedly, the next two tracks feel like filler intended to build up to ‘Rauða spjör – Red Spears’. ‘Ár skal Rísa – Warriors Rise Early’ is a basic-sounding lyre piece with poetry. Certainly, the poem sung here is fantastic but not being able to speak Old Norse is a huge barrier, given the simplicity of what is played and sung. There are more dramatic performances in the poetry of ‘Söngr Lögsóta – Song Of The Seahorse’, and when it shines, Selvik’s vocals are truly something to behold.
The previous pair of songs were building towards Rauða spjör – Red Spears. Opening unnervingly, out of tune strumming of the lyre and aggressive pace changes to add that off feeling. What is weird is that Rauða spjör does not stick to that level of intrigue. Once the drums and tambourine startup, it feels poppy and head-boppy. It is weirdly danceable and the slightly wheezy instrument harmonizing with the main sung melody is cool. Not quite Taylor Swift, given the use of traditional Norse instruments, but the song is an odd shift in atmosphere given the release’s other tracks.
Weft of Spears closes with ‘Til Vinskapar – To Friendship’. ‘Where Rauða spjör – Red Spears’ was almost a fit for the Billboard top 40 with the way it wore modern songwriting on its sleeve, ‘Til Vinskapar’ brings us back to Skaldic poetry in a stunning way. It is off to a menacing start, the chanted vocals enhancing the horn section’s prominent drone.
Selvik’s composition drops the instruments at interesting moments throughout the chaotic wall of voices, alternating to a subtle one man and his personally stringed talharpa touch. This is used to great effect to build a sense of loneliness and desperation, a more sorrowful side of battle amidst the madness and uncertainty. Disappointingly, Til Vinskapar ends abruptly without any wind-down. It is a bold choice that works here because of how chaotic the bigger-sounding moments of the piece work.
Out of 10
- Selvik’s vocals (as always) provide a distinct personality and great anchor to the work.
- Some tracks are stunning and do an amazing job of drawing you in.
- Wonderful use of traditional Norse instruments and poetry.
- Too much filler on an already short EP.
- Difficult to connect to.
Einar Selvik has created an ambitious and interesting work with Weft Of Spears and while the middle of the EP is throwaway filler content, fans of Nordic neofolk may find some depth here. For fans of Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla’s other soundtrack, this is not a bad extension but listeners will already have heard the best it has to give. That said, there are worse ways to spend 22 minutes of your time. Listen to Weft of Spears on any music service here.