‘Heljarkviða’ is meant to depict the Old Norse kingdom of Helheimr; a place for the slain who suffer a ‘helsótt’, a fatal illness. They are the ones who are not chosen to travel to the joyful and venerated halls of Óðinn and Freyja, but are instead taken to the kingdom of death, to Hel. It was in early 2014 when Árni (Carpe Noctem, Wöljager), Stefán (Kerbenok, Wöljager) and Marsél (Helrunar, Wöljager) initially started to compose music with the intention to set this gloomy mythological realm into music. Caught by the dismal atmosphere that surrounds this interesting place, Stefán wrote the lyrics by mainly focussing on two different poetic sources from the Old Norse corpus: the Eddic poems, of which first and foremost the grand late tenth century Old Norse poem Vǫluspá served as the most important reference, followed closely by poems of contemporary medieval Icelandic warrior skalds such as Egill Skallagrímsson or Gunnlaugr ormstunga and their mythological battle descriptions.
Hel and her same-named kingdom is ambiguously displayed in the primary sources, which is most likely due to the fact that descriptions of the place itself are much older than the ones about the goddess. It is because of this that neither Skaldic and Eddic poetry, nor the impressive corpus of medieval Icelandic saga literature, provide a coherent picture of the place and the potentially numinous figure. The lyrics for this record, therefore, are a combination of what is known about both aforementioned aspects of Hel, set into a mythological telling of a warrior’s death and afterlife.
The text describes a journey of a doomed warrior who fights with his band of Vikings and dies in a blood-driven ecstasy on the battlefield. After his painful death, his body sinks into the blood-covered soil and travels through the chthonic wastelands below, only to arrive to a place where all other slain bodies rot together under the reign of Hel in and around the bleak hall of Éljúðnir, a monstrous building made from the spines of poison-dripping snakes; a place beyond the spheres of time. Through the treacherous shot guided by Loki, Baldr, the brightest of all gods, is sent to Hel and the worlds begin to collapse. Now, at the beginning of Ragnarǫk, the undead people start to wander back to the surface of life to fight at the final battle at Vígríðr. The grand depiction of Ragnarǫk in Vǫluspá gives the most detailed description of this event and its disastrous conclusion in fire when Surtr cleanses the earth with his flaming sword Surtalogi. The slain bodies appear, however, again after all life has been extinguished. Carried by the wings of Níðhǫggr, they fall down to the revitalizing earth to bring back their very own mythological phaenomenon of death.
It is our hope that some of this apocalyptic atmosphere is transmitted through the music, lyrics and visual arts of this very special release.