I’ll be reviewing: VIKINGS (2013 – Ongoing)
So here we are. Vikings! This for me was a bit of a reluctant watch initially. A friend of mine had ranted and raved about how supreme it was and i’d remained uninterested for quite some time not convinced anything involving Vikings would strike my fancy. How wrong I was. One rainy Sunday afternoon at home my fiancèe and I were fed up waiting for Game of Thrones to start again and made the decision to commit to a new box set. At random I selected a handful of popular TV series and we pretty much picked out of a hat as to which would make it into our living room. And so,Vikings entered our home. #KingRagnar
There’s loving a new box set and there’s LOVING a new box set. Now, i’m not going to lie to you, things have gotten bad, obsessive almost. To say we’re hooked, addicted and converted would be an understatement. We’ve spent many hours debating Rollo versas Ragnar? When will Lagertha and Ragnar get back together? Where can we buy our own drinking horns? And who on earth is responsible for Rollo’s blow dry?
It’s gotten so bad that just last Saturday evening after a few too many bubbles, I was informing random members of public that I was a Viking. There is even a small part of us regretting our upcoming big classic white wedding theme or is it too late to make it a Viking wedding? Haha just kidding…. nope definitely not kidding.
Sooo, now with the embarrassing confessions out the way, let’s move on with the review
Vikings launched back in 2013 and the show is currently in the middle of season four with the fifth approved (hallelujah). The story follows a young Ragnar Lothbrok and his family through raids across the sea, battles with Saxons, battles with the French, spirituality, war and constant differing family and political circumstances. Oh and just in case you hadn’t grasped it just yet, they’re Vikings. It’s dramatic, bloody, dark but emotive and at times you’ll even glimpse the odd injection of raw humour.
LET’S FACE THE MUSIC
Being the soundtrack goof that I am, I instantly recognised the mastermind behind the score of Vikings, cue Trevor Morris. A Canadian Emmy Award winner with more than one toe dipped in the pool of majestic and glorious sounding historical film and television pieces. For those of you that are fans of historical TV you will know him for his work on the Tudors (2007-2010). We’d recognise that theme tune anywhere….
In 2011 Trevor Morris extended his skills to cinema and worked behind the scenes of Olympus in the blockbuster ‘Immortals’ as well as the series’The Borgias‘ and mini series ‘The Pillars of The Earth‘. See there’s a real theme being sculpted here right?! A specific historical genre but an incredibly complex style required in order to complete a fresh new sound for each individually. Vikings in particular is like nothing i’ve heard from Morris before nor from any other composer. He’s like the sound of the future but married to grand periods of the past.
The soundtrack consists of various elements with contributions from others alongside Trevor Morris. In order to really dial into the core of the Nordic / tribal theme of the Vikings they brought in the band, Wardruna (a musical project based on Nordic spiritualism and the runes of the Elder Futhark). An eerie, dark, primal and pulsating totemic sound that sends shivers up your spine and down your arms as soon as those vocals kick in.
The Vikings’ soundtrack is a real joint effort between the more classic score provided by Trevor Morris which provides around two thirds of the soundtrack and then the beautiful sound of Wardruna flooding in for contrast. The beauty of this marriage is that both musicians have been challenged and as you listen to their work, they’ve both created pieces that demonstrate the sound of both calm and strong, loud and soft, war and peace. AND don’t for a second think that i’ve forgotten the theme tune…oh no, Fever Ray i’ve got a special message for you!
Unfortunately I can’t talk about absolutely every single beautiful piece as there are a lot of seasons, and a lot of songs. So i’ve picked a few stand out favourites that I simply can’t get enough of.
The first track I simply had to write about is ‘Ragnar Fights The Earl’ (Season 1). This piece sounds and reflects how pivotal the scene is. From this point, the life of Ragnar is about to change and his journey to become who he is destined to be starts with this conflict. There’s a very cinematic drama to the way this sounds and you can almost hear the duel between Ragnar and the Earl. There is a combination of agility and lift in one half to represent Ragnar, then a darker more rhythmic sound to represent the Earl. You can hear King Ragnar’s soul waking up….
RAGNAR FIGHTS THE EARL – TREVOR MORRIS
NORTHUMBRIA RAID (OR FEHU) – WARDRUNA
JARL BORG ATTACKS KATTEGAT – TREVOR MORRIS
VIKINGS ARE TOLD OF OF RAGNAR’S DEATH – TREVOR MORRIS
In film and television in regards to the music, I simply adore when there are character themes. Not in an Alvin and The Chipmunks kind of way of course, but when there are compiled musical notes used almost as a pre-warning for a particular character to appear. This piece is ‘A Cloaked Figure Arrives in Kattegat’. When I listened to the soundtrack for the first time after watching Vikings, I knew the exact scene and person this music was attached too. The eerie entrance of Harbard the cloaked stranger. It drips of mystery and it sounds a lot like the thought process that every viewer was experiencing. Who is he? Was this new unknown character good or bad? Human or God?
A CLOAKED FIGURE ARRIVES IN KATTEGAT – TREVOR MORRIS
The wondrous music is again by Wardruna and it’s called Helmta Thurs but on the soundtrack it’s ‘Blood Eagle’. It’s used for a long and utterly barbaric torture scene that goes beyond comprehension. The beauty of this scene is that there is no gore on show, you see nothing. Nothing but the agony on the face of the victim and determination on the face of the inflictor and shock of the onlookers. A combination of echoing chimes and thumping drums are used to create a hypnotic rhythm that remains consistent through-out. As the ceremony begins a pained violin sequence starts along with the infamous Wardruna vocals. This musical sequence is on loop for the whole scene and almost sounds like the deep breathes someone in utter agony might take. The sequence then slows as if to represent his slowing pulse as the end of his life approachse Fantastically done, but my goodness, it’s monstrous.
Just to remind you in case you have been smart and forgotten, the definition of the act: The “Blood Eagle” was a Viking ceremonial method of execution by torture; according to the Norse Sagas, the prisoner was cut from the spine, separating the ribs and opening the back, resembling blood red stained wings, then the lungs were exposed and placed on the shoulders to complete the ritual.
BLOOD EAGLE – WARDRUNA
IF I HAD A HEART – FEVER RAY
So overall, what an utterly captivating and mesmeric compilation of musical genius. Trevor Morris you are an incredibly talented. Wardruna, thank you for introducing me to something completely new and haunting.
Hope you enjoyed having a read y’all!
And you know what…. if the Vikings cast are after a brand spanking new shield maiden to join the team, i’m here. Michael Hirst….i’m talking to you my friend! Maybe Lagertha has a long lost sister? Misplaced niece? #iwanttobeaviking