I think I’ve said it before on the blog, and I definitely did on the podcast, but I’m a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. I mean, you can’t really be surprised, right? I’m a huge history buff and I love video games, so the conjunction of both things is a natural fit for me. But the franchise has definitely been in dire straits in the past, especially when it came to nailing the historical atmosphere and vibe of an era and balancing it with gameplay. So when the latest iteration in the franchise, Valhalla, was announced, I was nervous. The time period in question, mainly 9th century England, is one of my all time favorites (I recommend Alefred’s Britain if you want to dig in). I was worried about how the game would represent Viking culture, one of the cultures most misrepresented by modern times and sensibilities.
But when I heard that Einar Selvik (Wardruna) was in charge of the soundtrack, a lot of my worries were laid to rest. Selvik has been at the forefront of the musical interpretation and reconnection with Norse heritage and sounds, making deeply subtle and varied forays into the Scandinavian past. His work for the game is no different; the soundtrack adds a sheen of authenticity to an already excellent representation of the period, elevating it past “mere” facts and into the realm of aesthetic expression. Now, a few weeks after the release of the game’s official soundtrack, Selvik is also releasing The Wave of Giants, a ten track album of music inspired by the game. It releases on December 4th and we are beyond thrilled to premiere “Dagar eru Taldir – Days Are Numbered”, the second track from it!
Eventually, after playing the game a lot these past few weeks, my worries for its representation of the historical period were completely assuaged. As I mentioned above, the music was a big part of it and this track does a really good job of illustrating that point. First, there’s Selvik’s deep vocals which always elevate his work for me to new levels. There’s something about his timbre and the tone he uses on the track that feels like a story being told from out of deep time. Secondly, and as we’ve discussed previously on the blog, using a non-English language opens up so many aural possibilities. Here, the rolling tones of Icelandic works incredibly well with the percussion, creating a lilt to the track that is impossible to resist. Add in evocative wood instruments and you’ve got a track to set the heart a-thrumming, coupling well with the imagery from the game.
Finally, the subject matter of the track (which you can access by using an online translation service) is more than just plunder, violence, and conquest. The game does this as well, taking a more subtle look at a rich and vibrant culture. Long story short, Selvik continues to be not only an excellent musician but to wield history with a clever hand. If you want to dive deeper into his vision for the game, The Wave of Giants releases on December 4th and you can pre-order it here. Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla has been out for a few weeks now and you can (and should) get it wherever you get your games.