Wardruna @ The Queens Hall, Edinburgh

19th November 2019
Review by Jacob Ovington
Photography by Jo Moolenschot

On a dark and rainy autumn night, at Edinburgh’s Queens Hall, the legendary dark folk powerhouse Wardruna make their debut in the city. Like Edinburgh, their music is mysterious, enchanting and something ageless which seemingly exists outside of the constraints of time, merging eras to create something truly unique. It’s because of this that it comes as no surprise that unlike many bands visiting the country, they chose this city over Glasgow for the Scottish date of their tour; Auld Reekie is one of the few places in the world that can provide a backdrop that is as atmospheric and otherworldly as the music of Wardruna.

There is no support tonight, and that’s probably a good thing. This is because Wardruna’s music alone is so deep and overwhelmingly powerful, that anything other than a silently tense build-up beforehand would serve as nothing but a detriment to the power of the experience.

Time passes and tension builds, people growing weary make their second and third trips to the bar, risking missing the start of the set. About forty minutes passes, and stragglers are still finding their seats and people are still dashing for one last pint, and at last the lights dim. But still there’s more waiting, until the silhouettes of Wardruna’s members emerge from the doors and take their place on the stage. Two mighty horns and their bearers frame the stage with a spotlight illuminating each to dramatic effect, the horns sound and the performance begins.

Throughout their set, Wardruna live up to their recorded sound and everything is just as magical and atmospheric as one would expect. In fact, seeing and hearing it all in person enhances the effect. The group use a wide range of folk instruments and the way they are all mixed and amplified is impressive, considering that’s not what they are designed for. The sound fills the room, penetrates the senses and raises goosebumps on everyone there.

Lead vocalist Einar has an excellent technique and is pitch perfect throughout, as well as being one of the most emotive singers I have ever had the privilege of hearing live. Every note has a nuance that conveys a certain feeling, sweeping across the audience and filling the room with emotion. The whole group contributes to vocals, but Lindy provides the main vocal accompaniment to excellent effect with a pure and ethereal voice, and combined the whole experience is very immersive.

The stage visuals are simple, and the band’s dancing understated with Lindy being the main mover, but this creates a solemnly dramatic effect. Spotlights create shadows and silhouettes of the band; timed with the music, this is a simple visual, but its effect is breathtaking and anything more would be too much.

This was far from the average gig or live show, it was an experience that indulged all the emotions and a trip into another world. Throughout, Wardruna succeeded in taking people’s breaths away, drawing tears from the brave and stirring feeling in even the most emotionally dead of people. As their two-hour set drew to an end, the audience rose and gave a remarkable ovation that went on and on, and the musicians on stage were visibly overwhelmed, almost being brought to tears themselves.

Next came the planned encore, followed by another even more powerful ovation from the audience which went on and on. The crowd clearly wanted more and they weren’t going to give up, so as the rest of the band left the stage Einar stayed and made a powerful speech of gratitude and a statement about what Wardruna is about. This was followed by a seemingly unplanned performance of Snake Pit Poetry, which was featured in the TV-series Vikings and is a deeply emotive piece. Once again, the audience was left in awe and the night finished with yet another round of applause from the audience that rivalled the power of the show they’d just experienced.