@ MERIDIAN HALL, TORONTO
OCTOBER 19, 2022
Magic happens during the month of October and what better time to welcome a unique Norwegian musical group dedicated to revitalizing and stirring up the stories, instruments, and words of ancient Nordic traditions. Wardruna, as lead by main composer Einar Selvik, brought their tales and rituals to the stage at Meridian Hall this week to a crowd of devoted fans eager to revel in Wardruna magic.
Celebrating the release of their latest studio album, Kvitravn, launched last year, the Wardruna live performance is simply one that is not easy to put into words. Just as the auditory landscape that is their music, complete with lyrics in the ancient tongue, the experience is something that needs to be witnessed. To say the least, the live performance is transporting – harkening to a long and epic journey of the soul through vast lands and waterways, to an archaic world that is far from our own.
The stories captured in Wardruna’s music are tales that most people would not understand, unless you happen to be as scholarly on the subject as Selvik. That’s just fine. As an audience, we place our trust in Selvik and Wardruna to lead us on this journey. Regardless of personal and cultural backgrounds, the music beckons to our ancestors who are calling us home.
The evening’s performance opened with “Kvitravn” (White Raven), the title song from the new album followed by “Skugge” and “Solringen”. When at a loss to understand the meaning in the lyrics, it’s best to embrace the lyrics as another instrument. The use of tonal sounds, throat singing, and guttural chants cast spells and summon spirits.
There is a unique majesty and ritual within the song “Tyr” – a combination of the chants and the powerful lur horns that call to Tyr, the Norse God of War, Law, and Order, son of Odin and half brother to Thor. Listening to this, seeing the awe-inspiring duo horns in use, is simply mesmeric. That feeling of being incredibly small and yet part of something much bigger.
Though Selvik is the driving force behind Wardruna, the group is entirely the sum of its parts. Vocalist Lindy-Fay Hella is just delightful to watch, her voice is a powerhouse and her stage presence commanding. Her eyes alone tell many stories. The rest of the band comprised of Arne Sandvoll, Eilif Gundersen, HC Dalgaard, and John Stenersen complete the world of sound with backing vocals and a wide collection of instruments most people have never seen let alone recognize the names of.
The lighting elements and projections used throughout the performance add the perfect final elements to complete the visual experience. This was a full sensory-filled adventure that will remain with the audience for many years to come.
As sad as the closing of any show is, it held the most personal significance. Selvik addressed the audience to speak of celebrating heritage and culture, stressing that in no way is he saying that one is better than anyone else’s but that it is possible to connect with yours through learning about another. Wardruna played “Helvegn” to close the night, a classic piece that first piqued the interest of many and was the drawing force that brought them to Wardruna’s magic. The song to sing a beloved to their death.
The encore for the evening was just as special. Reminding the audience that Selvik was behind much of the music used in the hit show Vikings, Selvik sang a poem recited by the show’s leading hero Ragnar Lothbrok as he slowly died in a snake pit.
(Photography by Samantha Wu)