without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
After the black debut and the more or less similar successor, "Fatherland" marked a quantum leap. Ancient Rites announced its return while presenting a cargo of highly variable tracks. The best part about that was that the Belgians were able to manage all different kinds of songs in an admirable manner. With regard to their first albums, they proved an unexpectedly high degree of mature. But this did not mean that the single pieces lacked of fury or enthusiasm. Genuine black metal parts and more melodic sections roughly balanced each other out.
The highlights of the album reflected its variety impressively. The epic and fairly dramatic title track united pathos and patriotism, pride and homesickness. The mixture of these feelings was insolubly linked with noble melodies and straightforward riff sequences. Well integrated breaks ensured an appropriate number of tempo changes and the keyboards increased the atmosphere. Ancient Rites expressed its solidarity with the homeland without creating a kitschy mood. Another outstanding track was "13th of October 1307". The song dealt with the day on which Philip the Fair decided to arrest the Knights Templar. (In terms of the lyrics, the entire album appeared as a kind of history lesson. From my point of view, this concept ennobled the record.) Musically, the song lived on the contrast of powerful riffs and the tender melodies of a flute. But Ancient Rites also offered rapid speedsters. The brilliant and fulminating "Rise and Fall (Anno Satana)" was crunchy and edgy as well. Its sharp riffs and the demonic vocals created an atmosphere of insidious perfidity. The effervescent chorus crowned this punchy tune. However, let me shorten this part of the review. Each and every song sparkled with original features and the compositional patterns clearly distinguished themselves from the predictable verse-chorus-verse-scheme. All in all, Ancient Rites convinced with very carefully thought out song configurations, gripping melodies and the necessary amount of speed and heaviness.
It goes without saying that every kind of outstanding songwriting needs a suitable sound in order to reveal its full magnificence. Luckily, the production of "Fatherland" did not show any signs of weakness. Ancient Rites did not try to impress with a raw underground sound. Nevertheless, the mix offered the sufficient degree of aggressiveness. In addition, the full and warm sound was well balanced and left room for every participant to show his musicianship. It came as no surprise that the interplay of the musicians worked perfectly.
Unfortunately, exactly the first two songs after the intriguing intro were not able to withstand the overwhelming quality of the following tracks. They were solidly constructed, but they did not shower the listener with highly exciting melodies. (This minor deficiency prevents a higher rating.) But this factor should not be overestimated. Ancient Rites offered excellent entertainment for fans of melodic black metal with almost unique lyrics. If you would like to check its most imposing title, I recommend to listen to the multi-layered "Dying in a Moment of Splendour" which shines not only with its flickering keyboard lines.
Fatherland is an absolutely stunning album. From the opening instrumental, an atmospheric intro that I feel I’ve heard before in classical music or a movie soundtrack somewhere, but can’t really remember, through the thrashier top songs Mother Europe, Aris & Fatherland, onto the more black-based songs, it’s an incredible experience.
Ancient Rites weave their progressive black / viking sound together using so many elements. The atmosphere, the nationalistic spirit is always present. They mix the harder stuff with symphonic parts nicely, no marked breakdowns in sight. They’ve given about every song three or four AMAZING, breathtaking state-of-the-art guitar solos. They aren’t downtuned. Instead of following the custom Ancient Rites put guitars with heavy metal tuning into their sound, lifting it a lot, both spiritually and musically.
The vocalist Günther does some amazing, snarling growls but the band should probably look elsewhere if they plan doing clean vocals again. He’s not exactly bad, though he sings with a lot of emotion he also sings with a lot of mediocrity. Better look at the music. That’ll cheer us up. There’s a lot of bass to the sound, and it’s in the foreground. Good thing. Still the innovative compositions are the best thing. If you can put darkness, melody, and atmosphere together and still make it progressive, creative and kick-ass, then you’re most probably a member of Ancient Rites already.
Having seen the praise of Ancient Rites' "Dim Carcosa", I was disappointed to see that "Fatherland" had received nothing, no feedback at all. I fell absolutely in love with the album's perfect mixture of viking and black metal, with progressive/heavy elements thrown in as well. There is no black and white scheme to Fatherland. Though the black metal side of the album is pominent, there are plenty of grey areas of blending.
The most obvious feature of Fatherland, which I think everyone can agree on, is the atmosphere and the nationalism of it. Though we have seen nationalism before on PLENTY of albums, namely Scandinavian pride, Fatherland is not limited to one region or one country. The track Mother Europe targets all of Europe while Fatherland is (as Günther describes in the booklet) an ode to all and what their Fatherland means to them. While the themes are excellent, the actual writing is just as amazing. There is no oddly worded English. There are no one word lines of "blasphemy" this or "Satan" that like that of (Although the ablum still rocks faces) The Diabolic Serenades. They are written intelligently without abusing the nearest Thesaurus.
While keeping their black metal layout with "necro" vocals and grinding riffs, their heavy metal influence is apparent in the opening of Mother Europe, almost the entire song of Fatherland, and the chorus of Aris. Just to name a few. Let's not forget to point out the, although far too short, ass ripping solo on Dying in a Moment of Splendour. Minus the solo, the entire song seems to drone and doom along reflecting a lot of the dark and melancholy feeling that Ancient Rites has became known for. The rest of the riffs tend to be more melodic "blackish", steering away from their earlier work of Blasfemia Eternal which seemed to be based on how aggressive the album could be.
Ancient Rites have also brought back Fallen Angel from their 1990 demo, changing it's name to The Seducer, and polishing it up a bit. It does feel a bit out of place on Fatherland with it's lack of European history theme that the rest of the album so obviously potrays. However the combination of heavy/progressive riffs with a blackened chorus (Via a cameo by Mikka), with a beyond evil atmosphere, makes it far too headbanging to ignorantly look over.
There's at least one sure instrumental on the album. The opener, Avondland. It does what an opening instrumental is suppose to do. It's short and it sets the atmosphere of nationalism. There is also the last track, Cain, which isn't really a song, but Günther narrating along with a piano. It's moody. The epitome of Ancient Rites' melancholy trademark. I definitely don't think it's for everyone, though. Luckily, as I said, it's the last track, so if it's not your "thing" then it's easy to skip or ignore.
The vocals. It's not too much of a surprise here. Günther sways from clean to blackened growls. Though his clean vocals are by no means Garm or some other praised vocalist, his vocals do the job. They're a bit droney/doomy. Similiar to Occulta Mors minus Occulta's all too obvious accent and a little less droney. I prefer his black vocals as they're a bit more complexed than the former. Having a bit more emotion and layers to them, plus his snarl that is all very common to hear.
So, yes, this is my personal favourite Ancient Rites album though they have yet to disappoint me with any of their releases. There's enough genre mixing here to attract all crowds or just those who can appreciate intelligent face rocking music.
Superb Tracks: "Mother Europe", "Dying In A Moment Of Splendour", and "The Seducer".