Although you could reasonably argue that Wardruna’s dark, runic folk soundscapes are, by definition, wholly regressive and in thrall to an arcane, ancient aesthetic, it’s equally easy to recognise the quiet musical revolution that Einar ‘Kvitrafn’ Elvik’s ensemble represent in the modern age. The third in a trilogy of albums that has seen the band move from underground curio status to something approaching a cause célèbre in left-field art-rock circles, Runaljod – Ragnarok confirms that echoes of the past may still have the power to enlighten and enchant, even as we mindlessly gawp at our smartphone screens.
More focused and cinematic than its predecessors, this is an album full of other-worldly atmospheres, primitive rhythmic pulses and mesmerising choral mantras. Wildly evocative and immersive, it demands to be absorbed as much as listened to. It’s both a meditative journey through prehistoric mists and an elegant reminder that cultural intuition and spiritual wisdom are by no means recent developments in humanity’s ongoing saga. The finest moments – the languorous UruR and the succinct Odal – are as spellbinding as anything else you’ll hear this year.