Wardruna finally get on the road with the brilliant Jo Quail in support. We witness an impeccable and moving show in Manchester.
Queues snake around buildings around Manchester’s Albert Hall, such is the anticipation of Wardruna’s live return in support of Kvitravn (our review here). Mancunians arrive dressed in full Viking garb; drinking horns and all – and an array of metal shirts ranging from the obscure to the obvious.
Taking the stage to an already packed Albert Hall, Jo Quail wows the audience. As she takes to the stage, she was greeted with great applause. Dressed elegantly in black, and cradling her unique instrument, her smile lights up the room as she begins.
Quail’s ability and delivery of song through her musical medium of the cello is something to behold. It’s no surprise that she is cellist to the stars in metal music. The layering of melodies and moods through looping is exquisite and brooding; the perfect foil for Wardruna.
Quail offered thanks to the crowd after Rex Infectus; the first of three pieces she was to perform. The percussive nature of the loops is mesmerising and the vociferous crowd response truly joyous as the short set builds to a stunning crescendo.
Darkness and anticipation swells as lights dim and the crowd grow louder. A raven swirls around the auditorium in sound and vision and not for the first time, shadowplay is employed making creative use of minimal lighting and a backdrop.
The deep, dark, drone from the septuplet of musicians in nearly every number make for an emphatic sound; the sound is equalled by each growing response from the crowd. Skugge, Tyr and UruR all dazzle with marching drums and rousing earthy tones.
Einar Selvik is a wondrous musician. His vision for Wardruna is realised impeccably and his ability to shift between a whole manner of indigenous instruments is nothing short of genius.
Vocalists glow under the lights; Lindy Fay Hella augments the sound of Wardruna superbly with her lamenting and impassioned embellishments. It is a real joy to see her in the limelight as Selvik takes a back seat at certain junctures. They are vocally assisted by Katrine Stenbekk who is a stunning artist in her own right as part of Kalandra.
Raido has the crowd clapping along fervently – the ‘march to battle’ pulse is one of many hypnotic drum beats that helps plaster wide smiles on the crowd; a crowd that is tightly packed in. Tyr and Isa build a palpable tension in every note, chord and melody. The coalesced voices showcase a drama that is not always easy to find in music. The stoicism gives goosebumps – there is immense pride in this hallowed, fabled music. Selvik’s chest is puffed out throughout; it is a privilege to witness.
Fehu closes out what is loosely a main set to thunderous applause and cheers. A quick ‘thank you’ from the stage turns into a clearly overwhelming moment for the band as chants of ‘Wardruna’ ring around the venue. Selvik acknowledges the hospitality and welcoming nature of the crowd to more cheers, stamping of feet and a standing ovation from those in the balcony.
Helvegen follows with a prophetic moment from the stage as Selvik talks of the meaning of the song; death, dying and moving on. ‘These songs are old stories; we need to make new ones.’ It’s an outlook that feels profound. The ensuing song delivers in spades to the audience who again are in raptures.
Wardruna are a special band. They have trod a path over many years, sticking to their principles and telling the stories that they have so much pride and joy in delivering. Manchester showed up and gave this great band, a great reception. The feeling was clearly mutual, bridging the gap between crowd and stage. If you get chance to witness Wardruna live; do not pass it up.
Listen to Solringen from Wardruna’s upcoming live release; First Flight Of The White Raven; below. It also gives you a sense of the spectacle and grandeur that Wardruna offer live.