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Listening to the 2013 re-release of Graveland's more introductory period, I'm reminded (again) of the old sense of heritage and European distinction among many of the leading bands of the early '90s. This deluxe edition boasts a neat twenty (20) tracks of solid, folky black metal which stands at the vanguard of all that would come after it.
Rob's dark harmonies and instant ability to combust into raw, apoplectic fury is not unlike what some modern bands are doing today, but there's (again) that spirit of origin and heritage that brings this album, in particular, to the forefront of these more modern bands. The demo tracks included in this re-release only serve to highlight what Graveland would later on embrace as musical stylistic par excellence; the vocals sparring wildly and brutishly against the high-tempo drumbeats and ravaging tremolo riffs to create a workmanship of utter musical purity - against all the odds, all the perils, etc., Graveland seems to have really outperformed their future descendants in all measures of style and technique. There are even some pretty hefty thrash riffs present (track n. 4 in particular) that make this something for both black metal and thrash metal fans alike.
Though I haven't been able to locate the original discs, this more contemporary release showcases a broad range of folkish black metal that would later on become Graveland's signature, and as the band pulls on through the disc, I can only feel a sense of homecoming - that here is finally something "true," if we are to use that term non-ironically.
Altogether, an extremely solid record (so far as the reissue is concerned), and really an "origin record" so far as "folk-black metal" goes.
One of a small group of lo-fi demos made by Graveland in the early 1990s, "In the Glare of Burning Churches" is a straightforwardly raw and primitive black metal screed against Christianity. You know straight away that this is going to be a dark and aggressive recording of hate against Abrahamic religion from the title and the instrumental introduction which plays like a soundtrack to a movie about witch-burning in the 1600s. The intro is a bit hokey with women's screams, individual and group male singing and pipe accompaniment against a background of flames engulfing wooden churches but once this is over, Rob Darken gets down to serious business in the title track: this turns out to be a surprisingly varied song alternating between blasts of pummelling black metal fury and swanky rhythms beneath deep haranguing vocals. After the Christians have been hunted down and killed, pagan ritual is celebrated in "The Night of Fullmoon", a darkly majestic piece in which a noise-guitar and drum machine rhythm churns constantly while Darken chants sinister lyrics and a looping synth-tone melody dips in and out.
After an all-synth ambient interlude, pagan celebration resumes with "Through the Occult Veil", a slower track than what's come previously but still with a machine-like chugging rhythm. Noisy black metal guitar rains down in acid showers and sometimes in the far distance, banging sheet metal can be heard. "For Pagan and Heretic Blood" is a faster and cleaner-sounding song, very business-like and defiant as it curses the Christian Jesus at the end. The demo bows out with a third ambient instrumental piece of icy blowing wind and a repetitive sound-texture loop of synthesiser and church organ, very remote, eerie and forbidding in nature.
The songs tend to be repetitive in structure and could almost be described as minimalist as there is hardly any melody to them. Most tracks feature an on-going guitars-n-drums rhythm that provides the harsh, noisy texture that's sometimes part-industrial / part-BM, over which a deep harsh and grating voice chants or spits out lyrics and synthesiser loops, taking the place of lead guitar riffing, are the icing on top. The sound quality of the demo may be fairly basic but it suits the hostile and aggressive attitude of the music and even before the intro ends, listeners won't notice much background static interference. The lyrics are sometimes a bit strained and in a couple of songs it's not too clear whether Darken is exhorting us all to follow Celtic druid worship, outright Satanic nature worship or a bit of both. Not a bad introduction to the early Graveland style but not as varied as the first demo "Necromanteion" made the previous year. I'm aware this demo was combined with another demo "The Celtic Winter" for re-release back in 1996 but it might have been better perhaps for Graveland to have released all its early demos from 1992 to 1993 on a compilation so that fans can hear how the music progressed in those days from noisy black metal with some industrial influences to a more melodic Viking metal sound. Still not late though for Darken to consider doing this as the band is now in its 20th year of existence and might be looking (?) for a way to celebrate.
After a quartet of lame industrial metal demos, each of which showed slightly more black metal influence than its predecessor, Rob Darken finally got his act together. What happened to Rob between February 1993 (the release date of Epilogue) and May 1993 (the release date of In the Glare of Burning Churches) is a mystery to me, but damn is the difference significant. In contrast to the plodding, repetitive songwriting of the first four demos, In the Glare of Burning Churches is full of dynamic compositions with interesting tempo shifts, a variety of progressions and intensely dark atmosphere. Perhaps most significant of all is the addition of Copernicus on drums and the abandonment of that god-awful drum machine. Now some metal musicians know how to use a drum machine effectively… Rob Darken is not one of them. The grating, repetitive drum machine used on the prior demos was sheer torture to listen to. Copernicus’s style is extremely rough and primitive, which accentuates the wild spirit of this demo.
In the Glare of Burning Churches is Graveland’s first foray into pure black metal and the outcome is wicked. This demo is extremely dark. The whole atmosphere is captured in the medieval intro: women scream as pops and crackles from a burning church sizzle in the background, all to soundtrack of some good ol’ pagan folk. This album is a declaration of war on Christianity. Graveland are not only going to kill you and burn down your church, but they’re also going to kidnap your children and convert them into pagan warriors! The album, then, is cunning, evil and violent. That spirit is encapsulated in the riffs, which are relentlessly diabolical—violent but also somewhat mysterious. Rob’s vocal are sharp and raspy. There is a lot of reverb on them, which accentuates their haunting tone.
The highlights are the earlier tacks. The title track encapsulates the vicious attitude of this demo, fluctuating between trashing fast passages (where Copernicus beats the shit out of his drum kit) and slower passages where massive, demonic keys take over. “The Night of the Fullmoon” is an excellent mid-paced track that is blanketed in dark, glorious keys. “The Dark Dusk Abyss” is a phenomenal piece of dark ambient. Rob hisses and snarls beneath an overpowering symphony of maleficent synths. The second half of the demo is solid, though not quite as stellar.
On the whole, In the Glare of Burning Churches is a quantum leap forward in Graveland’s development. This demo sets the stage for two classics of black metal The Celtic Winter and Carpathian Wolves. While In the Glare of Burning Churches isn’t quite up to par with those releases, it is still a high caliber demo that fans of raw, dark, black metal will absolutely adore.
(Originally written for http://deinos-logos.blogspot.com)
Graveland's fifth demo, In the Glare of Burning Churches, is one of the more grim and raw efforts from this Polish band. Released on cassette, in May 1993, it has been reissued on tape and CD, several times. Over the years, some extra songs have been added, though this is hardly a major selling point, as superior versions can be found on The Celtic Winter. Had it not been made available on CD, there would really be no reason to ever track this down and listen to it. It is not particularly impressive, though it is not bad for what it is.
I was much more into this 'album' when I first obtained it, as I was quite disappointed with everything else that I had heard by the band, other than The Celtic Winter and Carpathian Wolves. It was nice to be able to go back and hear more raw Black Metal with Graveland's trademark approach, actually being able to enjoy the band again by going back in time. I recall listening to it over and over, while studying in the bleak winter months. However, after that initial period, it has done little more than collect dust.
The material on this demo should sound familiar with anyone that has heard the aforementioned releases. A few of the same songs are present, though the atmosphere is a little different. This is due to the performance and production. This may be the band's most raw effort, next to The Celtic Winter. The main difference is that the sound is quite flat, particularly the drums. The lack of reverb makes for an entirely new listening experience. The rhythms are a little boring as well, though this is not a huge deal. Overall, the songs are lacking in conviction and passion, doing very little to create atmosphere outside of the various samples of flames and winds. The keyboards also attempt to make up for the weak riffs, but to little or no avail. Most of the songs are mid-paced and one-dimensional, failing to keep the listener's attention for very long. The musicianship is very sloppy and the songwriting is uninspired, for the most part. Though one might be tempted to write this off as a third-rate tribute to Norwegian Black Metal, Graveland's music actually possesses a character of its own. While many of the elements may sound familiar to fans of Darkthrone, Emperor and Burzum, the actual execution is done in such a manner as to not really sound like any of those bands.
In the Glare of Burning Churches is not essential, but offers a decent slab of raw Black Metal that should appeal to anyone that found themselves disappointed with everything after Carpathian Wolves. It may end up being little more than a novelty, but fans of early Graveland should give it a shot.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
I've heard this 1993 Graveland demo once described as one "dripping with evil black metal" recording. Oh, yes indeed! This era of the band is highly touted by many who have picked them out. Is In the Glare of Burning Churches in the hierchy of classic "second wave"-ish black metal classics? I would have to say if not, then it's certainly in the conversation. As far as this band, they're among the best ever in black metal so ,yes, Glare is in my opinion at least one of the best of demos if nothing else. And what is in it to make it so worthy aside from the fact that it's "in era"? Well, for starters how about the fact that it trumps most(though not all) Norwegian black metal of that time in the atmosphere department? But it must also be said, that since I love Norway, I appreciate this as unique on its own merits. Norsk black metal was "cold". This demo is "arcane". This demo put Graveland squarely on the list of important black metal bands ever.
The recording is mostly influenced by Under the Sign of the Black Mark. So right there you know when I mean atmosphere, it's of the ghoulishly dirty rawness. And of course how really dirty "dirty" sounds will depend on which release version you hear also. But whichever you pick up, it's very rough and raw in the undertaking of the music playing. Rob Darken's vocals are raspy scowls that creak like Dracula's castle door on Walpurgisnacht. Very evil and dark indeed. Not for the faint of heart, no. Of course if you seek this demo out, I'm sure you already know going in that even by early 90's black metal standards, this is all played as unabashedly anti-technical as unhumanly possible. The riffs played are very unsophisticated and doused in so much distortion that that the actual notes are hidden under the cover of darkness that the evil atmosphere demands. And that's without even having mentioned the drums yet!
As a drummer, Capricornus may be no Hellhammer but he doesn't need to be. He is very awesome and he brings exactly the type of intuitive percussion essential for the kind of black metal Graveland plays, as again, this band aims for primitiveness like Gorguts aims for technical-ness. So what he plays is black metal barbarism in the grim with no shortage of the grime. To say Capri's drumming is sloppy and unkempt on here is an understatement. I really admire his style. It suits the direction perfectly. And as for a bass guitar, if you really must ask then boy are you listening to the wrong record.
Maybe you've heard Graveland's first album proper of Carpathian Wolves first and want to know how In the Glare of Burning Churches compares. Honestly? I think this demo is much better than it. And it's not even close. It's a fair comparison too because Darken utilizes much of the keys work in the same manner as that album but on Glare, they make the songs more memorable. For some reason that song In the Northern Carpathians on that album wasn't all that interesting no matter how many times I listened to it. Just the way this demo is laid throughout its tracklisting makes this much better.
If you haven't purchased any Graveland releases yet and need a place to start, In the Glare of the Burning Churches is where you need to be. There's a career progression with his band that you mustn't miss out on. Even on its own, this is genuine black metal skullduggery of the very first order. Anthropologists should preserve this demo as Exhibit A in primeval music.
Graveland, the band that most consider to be the Polish answer to Bathory. The musical project Graveland, ran by a single man named Rob Darken, was formed in 1992 as a black metal band that sang of paganism and witchcraft. Then somewhere within his musical career, Darken began to steer away from black metal, and entered the realms of Viking metal. Graveland is mostly known for their Viking metal albums; but make no mistake about it, there are a few gems to be found within their black metal past, and this album, ‘In the Glare of Burning Churches’, is one that should not be missed. An album that plays vicious, hideous black metal that is real, true, and most of all, scary.
This album was first released as a demo in 1993, but was then re-mastered and re-released in 1996. The re-mastered version is the one that should be looked for, for the demo is obsolete compared to the re-released version. The instruments are clearer, and the atmosphere is more apparent and easier to comprehend.
The introduction of the first track explains the overall meaning and theme of this album. The introduction constructs a picture of Pagans chanting in front of a burning church that is filled with Christians. The Pagans are celebrating their victory over Christianity as the Christians are screaming in pain and agony as they are being burned alive. A great but eerie intro, which is then followed by a vicious riff and an unholy yell. From that instant, you know what you are in for. Darken begins to scream at the Gods for power so he can destroy the Christian God, while the drums, played by a drummer known as Capricornus, begins to play a fast-paced beat.
The vocals on this album are truly scary. Some of the yells simply gave me the creeps, making chills come down my spine. The most memorable part that comes to mind is at the end of the song, ‘For Pagan and Heretic’s Blood’ when Darken yells out, “Fucking Jesus Fucking Christ!” His performance was truly passionate. You can feel the hatred and rage that Darken poured onto these tracks. While most aren’t big fans of Darken’s vocal delivery, it was definitely essential and needed on this album.
What really made the vicious guitar riffs good were the overall sound. The riffs are mostly distorted, but you could still easily make out the notes and riffs being played. The riffs were pure black metal: simple, catchy, and memorable. The drums were simple as well, but are very apparent. Capricornus, the drummer, mostly played a chugga-chugga-chugga beat throughout this album, a beat that is found in a lot of black metal records. The drums were technically nothing special, but without them, this album would be nothing.
The vocals are undecipherable but scary, the guitar riffs are distorted but vicious, and the drums are simple but essential. But what truly made an impact on me were the keyboards found throughout this album. The keyboards were used mostly to play an organ-like sound; a sound that solidifies the atmosphere of cold, grim paganism. The keyboard sections tend to start off soft, but it eventually builds up into a very loud sound, drowning out all of the instruments. When I hear these sections, an evil epic feeling comes across me, and the hairs on my arms stand on end. It is like I’m being introduced into the dark presence of an ancient black Pagan God! This album has an already dark and grim atmosphere, but with those keyboards, the album somehow becomes darker and blacker. Some would frown at the usage of keyboards in black metal, but keep in mind that this isn’t an Emperor album.
This album/demo is truly worth checking out for any black metal fan. There are very few black metal albums that create an atmosphere as powerful as this one. This album is one of three albums that I think best represents the black metal genre. I would easily give this album to anyone that has an interest in black metal. It truly shows on how evil and scary a black metal album could be without sounding ridiculous. Graveland does not play black metal anymore, so they will never make a black metal album that is as good as this one again. But one could always settle with the Viking metal albums, which are known to create an atmosphere that is powerful and grand. A worthy substitute indeed.
I have the 1996 re-issue of this amazing demo, which as far as I know is identical in sound, except for the addition of some tracks at the end. I can’t recommend this enough. This is worthwhile not just for the bonus tracks, but for the awesome church-burning cover art (not currently featured on the MA album page) which Darken describes in the booklet as “pagan reality in Poland 1994-95”. I’ve had this cd for about 8 years now, and it’s kept me coming back for its unparalleled level of heinous barbarism, and no I’m not talking about the Edward Scissorhands variety.
Right from the start, “In the Glare of Burning Churches” is medieval, and features what sounds like witches being burned at the stake for the first 1:40. Their screams are futile amidst the flames growing ever louder and the chanting accompanied by pan flute music and kettle drums. From that point on, the listener is subjected to a riff which stands alone as demonic and hateful, and before this riff is done settling in properly, Capricornus’s warlike polka drumming comes in with an inhuman throaty scream of anger from Darken. He is genuinely full of rage and hatred towards christians who built their churches on sacred Pagan land, and is demanding the power to destroy the christian god and kill all his followers. The rage that Darken conveys feels timeless; formed over a thousand year period, and profound in a way that transcends that which is generated by the human throat. The vocals on Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger carry a similar aura for me, although they are in a different style.
On Graveland’s later releases (which I also enjoy), Darken’s vocals suit the style quite well, but seem slightly weak and easily imitable, in other words, get out of bed a little bit dehydrated, perhaps take up smoking and most people could generate a Darken impersonation in as little time as it takes to perfect Chewbacca. The reason for this is he destroyed his voice while recording “In the Glare of Burning Churches”! This sounds like an extreme thing to say, but every album after this one features a weaker vocal style, even the widely praised “Carpathian Wolves”. The simultaneous scream/gurgle style that Darken perfects here is so far unmatched in black metal. He really does push the limits of his vocal chords. At the ends of some syllables, you know the type where Varg would often do his trademark “hoot” style, Darken just pushes that throaty scream even further, as if all that mattered was declaring war against christianity within this half hour. I describe his style as a “scream/gurgle”, but in later albums it becomes mostly a gurgle.
The guitar tone contributes greatly to the savagery of this disc. It is extremely raw and gritty sounding, without the emphasis on the treble as on many Norwegian second wave albums. There are no solos here, only bleak dirges and face-melting rhythmic, yet primitive riffs. I had difficulty finding a comparison point for the guitar tone and riffing style, but Absurd’s Facta Loquuntur is certainly a good reference point, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Hendrik and co. spent a fair amount of time listening to this demo. There is an almost punkish, amateurish feel to the guitar tone and style, and when combined with Capricornus’s pseudo polka-blasts which sort of collapse out of the speakers, the rhythm of the music invokes imagery of an unstable yet heavy carriage rollicking along and crushing skulls underneath it.
Darken’s keyboard use on “In the Glare of Burning Churches” is masterful, and really does serve to “darken” the riffs by playing the same role that bass guitar would if it were audible, however there is no way I could end this review without mentioning the keyboard track entitled “The Dark Dusk Abyss”. The keyboard takes on the role of an evil sounding lead instrument as Darken just about loses a lung (this track does have lyrics, but they are not published). Notice the word I used for the keyboard was “evil”, not “scary” or “ominous” or “majestic” or “ethereal”. This isn’t the sort of keyboard interlude where you reach for the skip button or use the two minutes to go and fetch your cardigan. This is a confronting piece of music, with a chilling, evil and unsettling atmosphere, which embodies the true passion and spirit of inaccessibility that black metal was always meant to have.
There isn’t much else to say. Darken would go on to create some brilliant, polished and epic music, but nothing quite as passionately vicious as this little beast of a recording. “In the Glare of Burning Churches” is an essential contribution to black metal’s second wave.
Utterly filthy. This reminds more than anything else of Ildjarn in the fetid, black organic earthiness of its production. The musicianship is barbaric and loose, the riffing malevolent, insectile and thuggish - in fact, just about the only thing to connect this record with Darken's latterday gleaming epics is the presence of his bizarre, instantly-recognisable vocal rasp. Guitar tone is pleasingly ripe and bassy - handy, as of actual bass guitar there is no hint. Capricornus' drumming makes up in euphoric viciousness what it lacks - sorely - in precision, staying mid-paced for most of the time but occasionally breaking into a savage blastbeat. Bursts of murky synth occasionally lance through the grime, and they are uncannily spooky. The album overall is pungently atmospheric - at times the listener may indeed fancy that they can glimpse visions of churches being consumed by flame in the dead of night. Some of the most genuinely, terrifyingly 'grim' black metal you are likely to hear.
....And that's a good thing. This is the the Graveland I love. Simplistic, repulsive, no beauty whatsoever. Just underproduced ugliness. This is up there with Beherit's Drawing Down the Moon in terms of malicious music. The riffs are well constructed and perfectly placed within the songs. They grind along like shards of metal. Drumming is simplistic and extremely plodding, almost sounding like the coming of war. Bass guitar? Where? Darkens use of extremely sinister sounding keyboards compliment this album immensely. Just when I though The Night of the Fullmoon couldn't get any better, the looming keys come through. Pure brilliance. This is simply fantastic. One of the best albums beyond the second-wave of black metal. A must.