Wardruna - Skald review

Bandcamp music player

50 users:
Band: Wardruna
Album: Skald
Release date: November 2018

01. Vardlokk
02. Skald
03. Ein Sat Hun Uti
04. Voluspá [skaldic version]
05. Fehu [skaldic version]
06. Vindavla
07. Ormagardskvedi
08. Gravbakkjen
09. Sonatorrek
10. Helvegen [skaldic version]

skald /skɔːld/ n. (in ancient Scandinavia) a composer and reciter of poems honouring heroes and their deeds.

So now that we know what the title of the record means, we can understand why the record sounds like it does. Wardruna have always been, out of the "world but mostly Northern European" folk bands, the one most beloved by metalheads, mostly due to the members' association with Gorgoroth, Einar's work with Enslaved's Ivar Bjørnson Peersen, and also for their soundtrack of History TV's Vikings. So after Runaljod, a trilogy of other-worldly, dramatic, and expansive dark folk music, it feels weird not to get more of the same.

Skald is still Scandinavian folk, still dark and ominous, but epic in a different way. Reading back the definition, the word that should be the most striking is "a". This is an album performed by a single person. And not in the one-man-band way. No. Performed live by one person singing and playing an instrument. Einar is entirely alone, like a voice seeping through and reciting an old legend. The instrumental parts, which used to be primordial and hypnotic, take a step back and are reduced to mere strings once in a while, giving center stage to Einar's raw and emotive vocals, so much so that songs like "Sonatorrek" completely strip them away.

Stripping the album so much to the core of Einar's vocals makes the album a somewhat difficult and monotonous listen to for someone not as used to this more archaic form of music. But even if sprinkling the album with more musically interesting moments would make it more engaging, that would come at the expense of what the album stands for. So even if it may feel like it doesn't stand entirely on its own as well as previous albums, this feels like more than just an album, but rather a more potent mirror into the past rather than a dramatized and romanticized view that the albums and the Vikings show had. And Einar's voice absolutely makes it work; he builds the mood and you can almost feel the story, unless you understand Old Norse, in which case you're a complete nerd. But even if you don't, the booklet contains the lyrics translated, as well as an introduction to the Skald and Old Norse written by philologist Bergsveinn Birgisson.

Skald features some older Wardruna songs in a skaldic form, so upon first listen those will be the most engaging, but something about the completely a cappella 15-minute epic "Sonatorrek" just immerses me in the archaic mood. It reminds me a lot of sad songs that old people used to sing in remote villages in my country. Granted, I listen to most of those collected either by Din Brad or professional ethnographers rather than live, but Einar's performance is so convincing that you can't help but feel transported back in time.

Perhaps to best vibe with the music, you should either imagine yourself amongst folks also listening to the stories of this skald with the cracking sound of fire and the clinging of mead-filled horns, or by playing Crusader Kings II in the meantime. I chose the latter.


Written on 14.12.2018 by My opinion is objective, sorry if you don't agree, but you're wrong.


Comments: 5   Visited by: 113 users
14.12.2018 - 14:55
" But even if sprinkling the album with more musically interesting moments would make it more engaging, that would come at the expense of what the album stands for."

That's important to realize not just for this album but for probably all music in general. A lot of the time if there's an issue someone perceives as needing to be improved upon on an album, the fact that it isn't as good as they'd like it to be factors into the original vision. I don't think many people really engage with art from this perspective of what the artist was going for as much as they go into it looking for what they'd prefer to be presented with, which is the wrong attitude to have imo.
Check out Apothecary's Favorite Bands Playlist, brotendo. One track per band.
15.12.2018 - 16:49
Written by Apothecary on 14.12.2018 at 14:55

but for probably all music in general.

Probably for all art in general
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?

2021 goodies
15.12.2018 - 19:31
I like the review. I like the album, too. Just the way it is.
15.12.2018 - 23:19
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Like I said every BM band must have some neo folk album, specially Germanic ones(not not German but Germanic). Its roots,its all about that musiv what they worship. ideas, philosphy, history, heathenism, paganism, otherwise pagan ornaments and mjölner dont make a sense. This is strong band, maybe sometimes abmient, but strong. I like neo folk as genre and neo folk connected whit BM. maybe only genre nowadeys where ideas are believes.
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
20.12.2018 - 21:08
The Entity

"Stripping the album so much to the core of Einar's vocals makes the album a somewhat difficult and monotonous listen to"

This is my problem, always loved Wardruna but have a hard time sitting through this one so far. And its because of the fact its stripped down, and the vocals are such a focal-point. But that was the idea for the album. Maybe it will grow on me if im in the mood to try again, otherwise I guess I will just wait for the next release.
Industrial / Cosmic Black Metal

Hits total: 4228 | This month: 19