A Norwegian musical project founded by ex-Gorgoroth drummer Einar "Kvitrafn" Selvik, Wardruna's beautiful, dark, and haunting music bears within it the sounds of global folk traditions, ancient instruments, rock, and ambient, but transcends all of these labels. Hewing closely to Nordic traditions and using regional instrumentation (deer-hide frame drums, flutes, kraviklyr, jouhikko, goat horn, etc.), the group emerged in 2003 and have since released a handful of well-received albums, including the Runaljod trilogy -- released between 2009 and 2016 -- which were based on a set of ancient runes, as well as the soundtrack for the historical drama television series Vikings.
Inspired by Selvik's long-held fascination with the Old Norse language and the Elder Futhark (the Norse runic alphabet), the project utilizes mostly ancient traditional instruments, some of them homemade, lyrics mostly in Old Norse, and guttural shamanic singing. The trio also includes vocalists Gaahl (né Kristian Espedal, also of Gorgoroth) and Lindy-Fay Hella. Evoking the spirits of nature and the freezing darkness of a Norwegian winter night, the group's oeuvre is not dissimilar to that of Finnish band Tenhi but feels more ancient and has a distinctly Norse flavor.
In 2009, the trio released their debut album, Runaljod: Gap Var Ginnunga, the first of a planned trilogy of albums which would, when taken together, cover all 24 letters of the Elder Futhark. The runes were not just letters; they were strongly associated with magic, and each was taken to have an occult meaning and mystical power. Selvik took all this into account, recording several of the songs in places associated with the particular rune in question, sometimes outdoors. The Runaljod trilogy was completed with Yggdrasil in 2013 and Ragnarok in 2016. Gaahl amicably left the band in 2015. Selvik brought much of his expertise to the music for the second season of the TV series Vikings, which he worked on with composer Trevor Morris; he later appeared as an actor on the show. In 2016 he teamed up with Enslaved's Ivar Bjørnson to form the band Skuggsjá. Selvik returned to his Wardruna project in 2018 and released Skald (the word's meaning refers to a Viking-era "composer and reciter of poems honoring heroes and their deeds"), an intimate acoustic collection of solo works, and Wardruna songs performed live in the studio. Their next proper album arrived in 2020; titled Kvitravn -- which translates to white raven, Selvik's totemic animal -- the record centered around the symbology of sacred white animals and their spiritual qualities. ~ John D. Buchanan