Wardruna is a Norwegian music constellation dedicated to create musical renditions of the Norse cultural and esoteric traditions. With the use of the oldest Nordic instruments and poetic metres as well as lyrics written in Norwegian, Norse and proto-Norse tongue, Wardruna sets out to give new voice to ancient and still relevant ideas and wisdom from the past.
Einar Selvik founded the group in 2002 and has ever since their public debut in 2009, patiently established themselves internationally as important communicators of Norse and Nordic cultural heritage. They are known for doing very few and special concerts, often in places that compliments their music, perhaps most notably when they performed in front of the majestic 1100-year-old Gokstad ship at the Viking Ship Museum in Norway. Over the years Einar Selvik and Wardruna have also gained a broad audience through their substantial musical involvement in History Channel’s hit series VIKINGS.
This October Wardruna will release the third and final part of their rune-based trilogy entitled “Runaljod – Ragnarok” and will do a small tour to support it.
Einar “Kvitrafn” Selvik
Lindy Fay Hella
Enslaved was formed in 1991 by Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson, and did their first demo “Yggdrasill” in the summer of 1992, while the legendary mini-album “Hordanes Land” was released the year after in 1993. Enslaved’s debut “Vikingligr Veldi” came in the spring of 1994, while the successful second album “Frost” was released already winter 1994. In many ways “Eld” (’97) marked the opening of a horizon-widening era for the band, with a small detour on “Blodhemn” the following year: Enslaved’s most furious and black-edged effort to date. “Mardraum (Beyond the Within)” was released in 2000; taking on an experimental and innovative approach for Extreme Metal. The band followed up with “Monumension” in 2001; receiving more (pleasantly) surprising positive response to their “no rules” approach to Extreme Metal. Many see an important milestone being “Below the Lights” (’03) – where the progressive yet darker Enslaved emerged. A new line-up was put together after the recording of “Below the Lights”, marking the opening of a new, shimmering chapter.
The new line-up released the album “Isa” in late 2004, and the album put Enslaved at the very forefront of contemporary Extreme Metal; both as a recording and live artist – proving the latter with the release of acclaimed live-DVD “Return to Yggdrasill”. “Ruun” was released in 2006, and received numerous great reviews from fans, magazines and websites worldwide. Early 2007 Enslaved sat out on their first full tour through USA and Canada since the late 90s; following up with treks all over Europe and more North America. Back in the studio the band conjured up “Vertebrae” (’08) together with mixer Joe Baresi – an album that spread across the globe like fire with extensive promotion and extensive touring. More inspired than ever the band worked on a new album throughout 2009, and started recording during the first weeks of 2010. The band’s first co-operation with mixer Jens Bogren; “Axioma Ethica Odini” received Enslaved’s 4th consecutive Norwegian Grammy in the Metal category (“Isa”, “Ruun” and “Vertebrae” receiving the three previous awards).
Enslaved continued to tour Norway, Europe and North America – and in 2012 they inked a worldwide deal with leading label Nuclear Blast Records. This all resulted in Enslaved’s groundbreaking 2012-album “Riitiir”, followed up throughout 2013 – with North American and European tours, and of course more festival appearances around the world. It also became the year when Enslaved finally made its way down under to Australia, a highly memorable and successful endeavor. 2014 were set to be the year when Enslaved took yet another step up, out, forward and whatever directions there are. The year started with supporting Amon Amarth. Then the summer and autumn saw the delivery of two highly public commissioned pieces in Norway, and the recording a new album. 2015 was one of the band’s busiest years; festivals were being played en masse, Enslaved’s own Ivar Bjørnson curated Roadburn 2015 (where Ivar and the band were involved in no less than four performances), and the new album “In Times” and its accompanying tours has set a new precedence for what progressive Extreme Metal can be. True Norwegian Innovation, in short.
2016 was the band’s 25th anniversary – which the band celebrated with tours, festivals and special 2- and 3-night shows (where sets were based on divisions of songs by timeline). It was also the year when debut “Vikingligr Veldi” and collection of rare material “The Sleeping Gods” was released through By Norse Music (co-owned by Ivar Bjørnson). At the end of the year, longtime keyboard Herbrand retired as a performing musician. The train that is Enslaved does not stop for anything though, and their new album “E” was released in 2017, with subsequent touring in Europe.
Ivar Bjørnson (guitar)
Grutle Kjellson (vocal & bass)
Iver Sandøy (drums)
Håkon Vinje (keyboard & vocal)
Ice Dale (solo guitar)
BardSpec is the Ambient project/band from Enslaved composer/guitarist Ivar Bjørnson. This June, By Norse will release the debut album “Hydrogen”. Having launched at Roadburn in 2015, BardSpec has since evolved into a fully fledged band, with Steve Austin (Today is the Day) on guitars/effects, David Hall presenting the live visual aspect of the project, with the layout created by Josh Graham (Soundgarden, Neurosis, IIVII, etc.)
BardSpec music combines stirring, hallucinatory synth-sounds with mercurial guitar effects and hypnotic rhythms that navigate illusory landscapes. Field recordings, and other found-sounds also drift and evaporate into the ether. Working intuitively with these elements and with sharpened senses, attuned to inner impulses, this is immersive music, that can exist anywhere, and anytime within the minds of the listener.
Whilst BardSpec might essentially be the same brain and personality making the music, compared to Enslaved, it is a widely different entity. Thematically and sonically, BardSpec is about minimising, subtracting and meditating upon the simplest essence of “things”; the single points: exemplified through the song titles, like “Bone”, “Salt” and so on, the basic elements and foundations that make up the whole. There is an element of “space” in the music, and the artwork, as a representation of the inner workings of the mind and the subconscious.
Inspired by the German masters Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schultze, Conrad Schnitzler as well as contemporary ambient music like Norwegian one-man-band Biosphere and abstract modern electronic music like When (Norwegian also), as well as the electronic/industrial-driven metal like Godflesh. Ivar describes the appeal and trance-inducing aspects of such music to him, “I remember listening to Richard Burmer and his album “Mosaic” from 1984. I thought I fell asleep but I was in a semi-lucid state where I still registered music – but not much else. At the end of side A there’s an explosion so violent and extreme that I jumped two feet into the air and was totally shocked. The weird thing is, I couldn’t remember it being there. When I revisited the music again it was just a little “thud”. I was just experiencing a trance so deep into the music that this deviation from the pattern and frequencies in the foregoing half hour of monotony totally shocked me. I loved it!”
The Nordic-folk trio KAUNAN breathes new life into old traditional Scandinavian music and re-awakens the ancient realms of pre-Christian folklore by using very old songs and tunes, odd scales, folk instruments like kontrabasharpa, hurdy-gurdy, various lutes, lyre, bagpipes and tales about the old Nordic myths.
After nine years of performing and collecting song material, their debut album entitled “FORN” was released on October 13th on By Norse Music.
KAUNAN is Oliver S. Tyr (Ger), Boris Koller (Au) and Göran Hallmarken (Swe). Oliver S. Tyr is the frontman of the well-known German folk band FAUN. Boris Koller is a professional painter and composer who specialize on the old types of Nyckelharpa (Kontrabasharpa, Gammelharpa). He has contributed to numerous studio productions and concerts with early music ensembles. Göran Hallmarken is one of the most outstanding hurdy-gurdy players in the Swedish folk and medieval music scene.
So far, KAUNAN have played concerts in Germany, Sweden, France and the Netherlands. Audiences were left fascinated by their virtuous performances, but also with the drive and archaic power of their interpretation of the old songs. They also supported Wardruna on their European tour 2017.
KAUNAN doesn’t simply play a Polska; they celebrate it, with almost religious passion. Their debut album features contributions by great guest musicians such as Einar Selvik (WARDRUNA), Maria Franz (HEILUNG and SONGLEIKR) and the Swedish percussionist Dhani Åhlman. With a booklet rich in illustrations, photos and background stories about the folklore traditions behind the songs, “FORN” opens a door to the ancient north like hardly any other album.
Boris Koller: Kontrabasharpa, Oktavkontrabasharpa
Göran Hallmarken: Vocals, Hurdy-Gurdy, Bagpipe, Mouth Harp
Oliver s. Tyr: Irish Bouzouki, Mandora, Mandola, Trossingen Lyra, Mouth Harp
When working a new song, Eivør often envisions the dramatic landscape of her Nordic homeland, a remote archipelago known as the Faroe Islands. “It can be very harsh and very gentle at the same time, and when I sing I see that wildness and softness blended together,” says Eivør. “I think it helps me to create music with a lot of contrast, which is important to me—I don’t want my music to ever feel too safe.”
Now based in Copenhagen, Eivør brings that stark contrast to a darkly textured yet brightly melodic sound centered on her captivating vocals. While her origins lie in Faroese folk singing, Eivør’s most recent output reveals her fascination with the infinite possibilities of electronic music. Along with earning comparisons to Kate Bush in the pages of MOJO, Eivør’s otherworldly ingenuity has led to her role in co-composing the soundtrack to the BBC/Netflix flagship series The Last Kingdom.
Originally released in 2015—with an English-translated version arriving last year—Eivør’s latest album Slør embodies her sonic sensibilities in tracks like “Trøllabundin”: a haunting piece of alt-pop built on her shapeshifting vocal work and hypnotic hand-drum rhythms. “This song started off as an a cappella improvisation in a dark hallway on a lonely night,” says Eivør. “It’s about being under the spell of music. When I play it today, I feel like I’m playing some kind of shaman techno music, even though there’s only my voice and my drum.”
Growing up on that island in the midst of the North Atlantic, Eivør first discovered the force and nuance of her voice by singing traditional Faroese folk songs with her family. Soon after learning to play guitar from her mom at age 10, she started writing her own material. “One of the first artists who really blew me away in terms of songwriting was Leonard Cohen,” Eivør recalls. “My friend’s parents had this big collection of his albums, and I’d go to see her and we would listen to his records all day long. There was something about him I just felt very haunted by, mostly in his storytelling.”
At age 16 Eivør made her first album, and spent the coming years playing folk festivals across Scandinavia. Although she also delved into genres like jazz and classical, her passion for experimentation eventually drew her to the world of electronic production. “I was trying to break out of this box I’d built around myself, creatively speaking,” she says. “I think as you dig deeper into whatever you’re trying to create, you sometimes come to a crossroads where you need to make some decisions that might take everything in a completely new direction.”
As part of her musical transformation, Eivør began to work more independently and brought a new degree of self-possession to her artistry. Through her sonic exploration, Eivør found herself creating more beat-driven tracks, such as the intensely charged and beautifully ominous “Salt” (also featured on Slør). Not only inspired by trip-hop pioneers like Massive Attack, Eivør’s efforts in beat-making also mine influence from such unlikely sources as Inuit throat singing. “I started coming up with ideas for beats by playing around with a combination of throat singing and beatboxing, and then building everything from there,” she points out.
While her songs often unfold with a certain melancholy (an effect she attributes to “the place I come from, and the sound of heavy waves crashing”), Eivør’s music also holds a mesmerizing power that’s nothing short of transportive. That power is especially evident in her stage show, as seen on her sold-out debut UK tour in 2017. “The live show is my thing,” Eivør says. “The songs truly come alive to me when I can reflect them back to an audience.”
Now working on her next album, Eivør remains focused on making music that’s uncompromising in emotion, and that ultimately connects on a visceral level. “I love looking out into my audience and seeing hipsters and grandmothers and goth kids and metal freaks, with no walls between us,” Eivør says. “I think that happens because I’m not trying to create for any particular crowd. I’m just trying to make the music that I’m yearning to hear myself—something that for me goes straight to the core of what it feels like to be a human in this world.”