Label: Indie Recordings
Review by Mabh Savage
Yggdrasil: Norse tree of life, world tree or tree of worlds. The roots stretch into the underworlds and the trunk and branches span the dimensions of the universe. This album is therefore aptly named, as it seems to tap into some other-worldly force that drives this musical experience upward and onward and thoroughly mesmerises as it does so. Rarely have I heard something that while being raw, tribal and somehow primitive in its structure, is also incredibly haunting and almost ethereal.
The vocals spread from bass to soprano and the incredible harmonics that arise from this literally make your bones shiver. It’s very clever, and a very old method of using music to physically affect the mind and body that is almost forgotten in these days of crisp, clean production and catchy choruses.
The instrumentation is a mixture of traditional, Nordic folk instruments and natural sounds such as rain and the wind in the trees. Wardruna are often described as a ‘Pagan’ band and I think that you really need to use the definition of Pagan that refers to nature based spirituality and a connection to the world and universe that bypasses technology and the modern world. This album could have been written 3000 years ago. It could equally have been sent 3000 years back in time! It is simultaneously a piece of living history and one of the most futuristic pieces of music I have ever heard, simply because it is so innovative in its unapologetic and proud unique style that defies definition.
Horses gallop across a soundscape of percussive wonder as a man gasps before being drowned out by the gorgeous and acrobatic vocals of Linda-Fay Hella (EhwaR). She is joined by Gaahl and Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, who also plays most of the instruments as well as writing the music and lyrics, many of which are in proto-versions of the Norse tongue. It inspires me to see anyone trying to keep old languages and history alive in a way that is relevant to us, but it amazes me when it is done in a way that is so entertaining and hypnotic.
The overall feel of the album is dark, moody and tense but in such a deep and resonant way that you can close your eyes and feel yourself sinking into the music. Tracks such as AnsuR evoke images of walking in dark, wet woods, with an edge of danger; something lurking in the trees. Despite the delightfully scary undertones, it’s easy to relax and let your mind wander; to simply feel each track wash around you.
Regular readers will know that even when I love an album, I don’t award 5 stars. ‘5 stars’ is for albums that are completely out of this world. Awe inspiring. Unique. Exquisite. One of a kind. Exemplary. Excite-ecstatifying. Yggdrasil is all this and more. It moves me completely, and I happily put 5 stars underneath this review and demand you go listen. It will alter you, and isn’t that what music should do?