Runaljod - Ragnarok
(Norse Music, 2016)

This album, the third of a trilogy by Norse band Wardruna, aims to complete their project of new interpretations of each of the 24 Norse runes "in what is often referred to as the elder futhark," as their website explains. The songs are played on period instruments -- goat horns, tongue horns, bronze lutes and instruments whose names I can't even pronounce abound, and the vocals are mostly chanting. The vocals also are not in English, adding to the mystery of the tunes.

Rough sounds that strike American ears as random mouth noises are all over the place, and all the while a bass drum pounds out a steady, unvarying beat. Occasionally we hear heavy breathing and noises that sound like wild animals in a field, growling at each other.

Let's face it: very few Americans are going to put Runaljod - Ragnarok on their devices as a daily must-play. The album is a history lesson, a look back at the Norse past at the music of explorers, warriors and explorers. It conjures up looks at a world gone by, one that should be fresh to us but one that instead lives only in books, bad movies and melodramatic TV shows.

The mood is what counts here and Wardruna is very good at creating the mood.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

5 November 2016

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