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In 1995, Graveland put out a black metal album called Thousand Swords. It was a masterpiece and magnum opus (and still is) that virtually no band from this genre has outdone since. It put many Norwegian black metal albums to shame with its incensed pagan aggression and no holds barred fury for war. What a tough act to follow! How could Graveland possibly meet expectations for the next album? Following The Voice Of Blood is yet another wide turn just as much as Thousand Swords was from Carpathian Wolves. That's how they did it. And yet it can be seen as a very close sequel to the predecessor at the same time. This album is far and away the band's most unique album. They went the minimalist route here to say the least but in a different way than Darkthrone with Transilvanian Hunger. There is more Burzum appeal on here than anything else but make no mistake, Darken produced his calling card with the material on this release. I sometimes wonder if he regards this record as highly as everyone else because never again would this band take such a leap into the ambitious realm of black metal. I very much enjoy the epic Viking metal that he produces of recent years but most will agree it's nowhere near as innovative as Following.
It might take you a couple listens all the way through to properly digest Following The Voice Of Blood just because of how different it is from Graveland's other works. There is no question the album is his most folk sounding of all the black metal in the band's discography. The guitar sound is very twangy and the tone is even thinner than Thousand Swords. I shit you not. Some people won't like that because it might sound like it lacks bite. I say they are just too used to other less epic bands and need to adjust. Another reason this is so innovative is because it's a whole other type of epic: it's raw, dirty and Old World sounding. The tremolo picking and full frontal distortion for the riffs are what make it so uniquely epic and breathtakingly melodic at the same time. And you know what this style of soaring riff twang sounds like? Some of Ennio Morricone's guitar work from the Dollars trilogy. I fell in love with those epic distorted Spanish licks. I'm glad metal musicians like Rob Darken discovered how awesome that sounded and incorporated it into black metal.
It's true that Capricornus won't garner any acclaim for pure drumming skill but he is perfect for Graveland and more so for this classic album. Ahh, the days when Darken had him on drums. Sure, the programmed stuff he mixes in now is really good but when Capricornus was in the band, Graveland hit their stride and made this era quite distinctive. If you didn't realize it before then on Following The Voice Of Blood, you will appreciate that fact for certain. His drum kit is aggressively thrown into the mixing. Every sloppy beat and rickety hit of it. It's almost like a parody of his unorthodox style from Carpathian Wolves.
It says Darken also did the bass on the album but I really doubt there is any. Or at least from a guitar. I heard some backing rhythms on a couple of the tracks but that was most certainly the key work. This record is designed to be completely driven by epic black/folk harmonies in the utmost direct manner and so it shouldn't surprise you that picking of riffs must dominate. Rob's vocals are even croakier than on the previous album. I've been listening to alot of Graveland's recent albums and it was again refreshing to hear the old black metal sound of those vocals.
It is tantamount that you pick this album up if you are getting into Graveland. On some parts it didn't sound right and there were tiny flaws but I realized they are all happy mistakes that are truly a part of why Following The Voice Of Blood is such a classic black metal album. And I remind you to at least start with Thousand Swords before you go to this release because the career progression is so much more rewarding this way. I step back and now look at how brilliant a black metal recording I have here with this album. Try to take in as much of this band's body of work and with time, it will emerge as one of the all-time greats sooner rather than later. Beware of The Black Spell of Destruction but fear The White Hand's Power! For Graveland put Norwegian black metal on notice with this record.