CONCERT REVIEW: Wardruna – Jo Quail: Live at Manchester Albert Hall

It’s a sight to behold the lengthy queue of hairy Viking looking metalheads snaking around Manchester Albert Hall, assuming of course the snake in question was quite hairy and dressed like a Viking, which I feel is probably stretching the metaphor a bit too far. You’d assume that said hairy, mead quaffing snake (alright, I’ll stop now) was going to be finding its way inside to some sort of very loud and very metal sort of gig. You’d be wrong, as indeed despite the roots of the headliners in Black Metal group Gorgoroth the queue is in fact for the mesmerizing solo cellist Jo Quail, and Nordic Folk legends Wardruna. 

A spellbinding evening indeed awaits that queue slowly making their way into the grandiose venue, a building with some excellent acoustics which would provide a perfect setting for the two acts tonight. 

Starting her 3 song set with ‘Rex Infractus’ Jo Quail delivered a set which was both spellbinding and mesmerizing. A set resplendent with myriad contradictions expertly orchestrated, power coupled with fragility; passionate yet calming; profound yet joyous the set was nothing short of magical. Seeing the atmosphere created with a Cello and a Loopstation was outstanding, the utter focus and skill it takes to make something like this look effortless is immense. The applause which followed was significant and well earned and was met with a broad smile of joy. 

The interlude between sets consisted of a series of low ethereal bass notes and soundscapes, which reminded me somewhat of Timewave Zero by Blood Incantation and carried the mood across from Jo to the headliners Wardruna. 

As Wardruna were about to hit the stage the energy was electric, the anticipation in the venue was so thick as to be borderline tangible. The white Kvitravn logo was projected against the white textured backdrop and the sound of ravens circling the venue began to fill the venue. The heart rate monitor on my watch informed me that I should probably calm down. 

Taking to the stage using shadows and backlighting Wardruna are key to emphasize the rich darkness of their tone. Opening appropriately enough with the track ‘Kvitravn’ and moving through an excellent set of pieces such as ‘Skugge’, ‘Heimta Thurs’ and ‘Raido’ had the crowd clapping along loudly with a look of delight on their faces. 


Following ‘Lyfaberg’ much of the ensemble leaves the stage momentarily, leaving Einar Selvik alone on stage to perform a skaldic version of ‘Voluspa’ which is met with rapturous applause, and why not, the man is after all a genius and despite his stoic demeanor his passion, dedication and pride emanates to every person in the room. 

It’s after this interlude,  the Applause became notable, I’ve never heard applause like this in my life, as loud and full as to compete with the stage PA. Moving through ‘Tyr’, ‘Isa’, ‘Urur’ ‘Rotlaust tre fell’ and ‘Fehu’ they magnificently build the tension, we’re beyond words at this point. I’m sat cross legged in the balcony, contemplating moving to a cave in Norway and taking up the Targelharpa, such is the impact. A life affirming, mind-blowing quasi-religious experience watching them live that everyone I’ve spoken to since has shared, it is wonderful to be swept away by the majesty of it all. 


By the end of the show, the coda if you will, there were minutes of applause, standing ovations, the crowd trying their hardest to convey just how much this show had meant to them, this was indeed something truly special. I would never pass up the opportunity to see them again. 

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