April 2, 2021 — For the second year in a row, Nordic folk scene-leaders Wardruna find their wings clipped when it comes to heading out on the road in support of their most recent album, Kvitravn.

While a life of lockdowns and travel restrictions remains very much in place twelve months on, the band has had time to prepare for a rather unique Livestream event, taking full advantage of the audio-visual format to showcase their traditionally inspired take of Nordic folk.

Cinematic soundscapes

Right off the bat, the first thing that stood out in the Flight of the White Raven March 26 Livestream was that relative to Wardruna’s contemporaries (including those from the rock and metal world) how expertly mixed the video and sound were. Folk music is often accentuated by the ambiance and set-up, and Wardruna takes full advantage of their entire repertoire to conjure sounds akin to an acoustic orchestra.

And visuals to match

Admittedly, there is a starkness at the start of the stream. This could be disappointing to anyone expecting a big celebration worthy of Valhalla. Sombrely dressed, the band takes to the stage with no sense of ceremony. Band progenitor Einar Selvik looks like he has come fresh from the set of Vikings – undoubtedly playing a surprise Son of Ragnar – and somewhat unexpected, Wardruna’s visual aesthetic is notably stripped-back.

By and large, the lighting used for the duration of the show remains fairly static and spartan. The mood and tone evoked by simple spotlights perfectly accentuate the soundscapes the band traverse. Which deftly conjures a sense of cinematic drama. Highlighting the cross-centuries appeal of the Nordic folk sound reimagined by masters of the craft.

“A beautiful shot of flaming torches across the stage for ‘Helvegen’ frames the shot perfectly… As the band members stand in perfect symmetry amidst the flickering glow. With Wardruna vocalists Einar Selvik, Lindy-Fay Hella, and Katrine Stenbekk taking center-stage.”

A hint of pyrotechnics

There are no huge explosions or roaring bonfires to accentuate Wardruna’s stage set-up. However, this doesn’t mean the element of fire is completely forgotten in the band’s eye for the dramatic. A beautiful shot of flaming torches across the stage for ‘Helvegen’ frames the shot perfectly. A cinematographer’s dream as the band members stand in perfect symmetry amidst the flickering glow. With vocalists Einar Selvik, Lindy-Fay Hella, and Katrine Stenbekk taking center-stage. While the rest hang back to provide the immersive foundation on which Wardruna’s sound is based.

Verdict

8

Out of 10

The Good

  • Wardruna sound and look sublime, successfully capturing the dynamic and nuances of their music in a way audio alone cannot match.
  • Each song comes with a poem/explanation of its themes, lending a great sense of understanding to the music.

The Bad

  • The performance space is sterile and lacks the inherent drama and thematic connection even a basic outdoor space would offer.
  • As with all livestreams, the event remains does not have the same engagement that would come from performing in a room of people.

Not so ‘Live’ Stream

One of the key elements of Wardruna’s First Flight of the White Raven is that the show is just as carefully trimmed and executed as the band’s music itself. Having every clip sequenced and shot ahead of the stream ready to be consumed by an eager audience. Listening to Wardruna isn’t simply engaging with music – it is immersing oneself in a rich cultural history and landscape. That exists as a part of, and independently of, popular culture.

In closing, the event feels even more special than the usual live experience. With the focus being drawn to individual musicianship at key moments. Or pull back to drive home the scope of seven musicians working in perfect harmony. Whilst perhaps not as bewitching as being in the room and feeding on that genuine live atmosphere directly, it does suggest that ambitious minds in the Nordic folk world clearly know how to take advantage of streaming. Directing their performance in much the same way as one would a music video or movie.

 

Prior to the event, Wardruna informed fans that Flight of the White Raven would be available for only 48 hours after the stream itself. A DVD/download will be announced later in the year.