Date:- 29th January 2019
Reviewed by Claudia Black
Photos by Claudia Black
I saw Heilung in this very same Hall back in November followed by Wardruna a few weeks later in Shepherds Bush. Tonight I am back in Islington Assembly Hall for my 3rd instalment of Norse delights!! Tonight is the turn of Einar Selvik’s and Ivar Bjornson’s side project from their usual duties with Wardruna and Enslaved. The collaboration had its birth in 2014 when the Norwegian Government commissioned them to create something for the 200th Anniversary of the Norwegian constitution. That project as you know was called ”Skuggsja”. Three years later its follow up called ”Hugsja’ started out as a commissioned piece for the Bergen International Festival, and after a few concerts the material was recorded into an album. Tonight’s concert was an amalgam of tracks from both albums…
I arrive around 7:30pm and enter the hall; there are low blue lights shining from the stage and ambient music playing in the background. After setting down my camera bag by the barriers stage right I go for a wander around the venue to get a feel of the vibe and buy a drink. There was a quiet anticipatory buzz floating around the venue as I watched the trickle of people coming in gradually grow the nearer to show time. By the time Einar and Ivor took to the stage the venue was nearly packed!!
The first track, ”Hugsja” is the title track of the album and starts out with the whirring of a bull roarer before hardanger fiddle and drums kick in to evoke a hypnotic atmosphere. This is followed by ”WulthuR”, a track that has both a contemporary and ancient feel to it. Both drums and goat horns have you standing with one foot in the past whilst the guitar keeps the other in the present. At around 8:47pm the proceedings take a few steps back so that we can all enjoy ”Skuggsja”. This is 6 minutes of reflection that I think joins together modern black metal to its ancient counterpart in a more stripped down and raw manner that I find quit satisfying!!
Einar and Ivar spend a lot of time explaining the ideas behind certain tracks and the historical contexts that provide the backbone. This was apparent on the cover of Wardruna’s ”Fehu” and Enslaved track ”Return To Yggdrasil”. Fehu being the rune of wealth, this was played with a softer tone to it tonight; without Lindy Fay Hella the feel was less bombastic and more intimate. ”Return To Yggdrasil” was played in a tone that embodied the end of Ragnarok when the worst was over and the world began to reorder itself, whereas the original is a more forceful as you’d expect. Having listened to both versions of each track, I like the contrasts!!
The last track of tonight’s concert is another cover: ”Helvegen” by Wardruna is a track about death, about crossing over and letting go. As the show comes to an end I reflect on what I have seen and heard and in the main it was a most enjoyable evening of music that melded the old and the new, and had me dip my toes into yesterday and tomorrow, to time travel whilst standing still. History is not a sense of ”was”, it is sense of ”is” and always will be!! I will remember tonight!!
5:- Ni Modre av Sol
8:- Fehu (Wardruna Cover)
10:- Return to Yggdrasil (Enslaved Cover)
11:- Um Heilage Fjell
12:- Helvegen (Wardruna Cover)