Picture this. Hundreds of people are chanting, stumping their feet, and clapping as the thundering drums of Norse pagans shake to the ground a 2,000-year-old amphitheatre in the heart of the ancient Greek Acropolis. Ethereal? Cathartic? Otherwordly? Try all of them combined.

The breathtaking performance of Norwegian dark folk band Wardruna at Herodes Atticus Odeon in Athens was a perfect storm—an inspired and brilliant clash of two mighty ancient civilizations originating at opposite poles of the Old World—a harmoniously twined sincretism of two different cultures, resulting in a rich and glorious experience.

After previously performing two shows in France, Wardruna decided to end their 2023 tour with a bang in Athens, celebrating the autumn equinox. The show that lasted for roughly 2 hours started with Solringen, one of Wardruna’s classics from their Yggdrassil album. A promising and prophetic beginning for the rest of the concert. The combination of flawless sound, theatrical smoke, and light work was enough to capture the great Norwegian atmosphere.

(sorry, poor quality video coming up.)

Known for their choice of authentic and old traditional instruments, such as deer-hide drums, goat horns, or lur, Wardruna was able to bring the old heathen days back to life. The mid-show break was an unexpected and yet really important highlight. Einar Selvik (ex-Gorgoroth), the multi-instrumentalist frontman of the band, took advantage of it to emphasize the necessity for humans to sing more, as simple as it may sound, for it’s what their ancestors used to do when they’d even sing their laws.

He noted, however, that Wardruna’s mission “is not to romanticize the past, but to take it and make something new of it”. He focused on the idea that all cultures “are part of the great nature”, and stated jokingly that “it’s not a pissing contest”. “Go home and sing more!”, he gave the audience a final homework, resuming the show.

After a tumultuous tempest of vibrant and energetic tracks such as Tyr or Rotlaust Tre Fell, the voice of talented Lindy-Fay Hella stood out like lightning when the band performed Lyfjaberg and Grá. Her versatile timber, ranging from faerie-like style to traditional joik and even darker, brooding chants, contributed perfectly to the genesis of an earthy and chilling atmosphere. She took that even further by performing her free-spirited, hypnotizing, and unchoreographed dance, a luring and charming call to old tribal traditions.

Following the thrilling and tear-jerking solo of the skaldic version of Voluspá, the climax of Wardruna’s show occurred during the performance of the popular and soul-wrenching Helvegen, one of their several tracks featured in the TV show Vikings. Einar introduced it beautifully. “We all lost someone”, he said. “(Helvegen is) a song about death and about honoring our dead. To reach beyond the veil and bring them closer to us.”

After an almost 10-minute well-deserved standing ovation at the end of the show, Wardruna had no choice but to bless their audience with a final jewel—Snake Pit Poetry, a balad-poem of the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok’s final moments.

On a final note, I can’t believe I almost didn’t go, but I’m more than thrilled that I got the chance to be part of such an incredible experience. And not only that, but I can consider myself lucky that at the next-day meet and greet, I had the honor to shake their hands, talk to them, and express how much their music helped me through some dark times.

And, not to brag, but I’m proud to now have a copy of their Kvitravn (en. “White Raven) album with all their autographs and even a selfie with Einar himself. Yay!

Main photo credits: @mariakousantaki

The following two tabs change content below.
Romanian writer based in Cyprus. Co-founder CVLTARTES. Author of "Hailbringer: A Romanian Folktale"