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Heralding the splendour of Europe - 93%

Felix 1666, May 21st, 2015
Written based on this version: 1998, CD, Mascot Records

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 maturity. 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.