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Poor production, but great songs, nonetheless - 85%

electricfields, June 29th, 2009

First off, the production on this album is not great. But it's not bad in the way a lot of black metal is. The guitars sound thin and toothless from over-polishing rather than just from being recorded in some guy's bedroom on a karaoke machine. While this brings out the melody, it just sounds unbelievably weak. On some songs the keyboard is awkwardly high in the mix and drowns out the guitars, and in others, it's barely there, which is usually preferable, because the bulk of the interesting melody is carried by the guitars.

But the songs here are mostly good enough to make up for it. There's more melody in one Graveland song than a lot of black metal bands manage in their entire discographies. The guitar riffs, in particular, carry a lot of the best melodies here (Born For War, in particular, stands out). Because of that, these songs manage to stand on their own despite being so polished. The album is essentially a astory following the traditional style of epic hero poems set to a soundtrack that strikes a really nice balance between Viking metal and black metal. The best comparison I could make would be Bathory's Blood Fire Death meets Beowulf.

One song that sort of sticks out is Black Metal War. I wouldn't say it's a bad song, but it doesn't really fit. I'm not sure whether it's an original or not, but it sort of sounds like a cover or something held over from a previous "era" of the band awkwardly shoved into the middle of an otherwise cohesive album.

But if you're into black or Viking metal at all, you'll probably like this album. It plays out like a traditional hero saga right down to the tragic ending and the achievement of immortality by the protagonist, as he dies on the battlefield. Almost everything is done well enough to make up for any shortcomings. This is definitely a hell of a metal album.