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Mixed feelings - 75%

Iron Wizard, March 3rd, 2016

I have mixed feelings about Graveland's Carpathian Wolves. It has some great, great songs, but it has a few dull and non-memorable moments which drag it down quite a bit.

The first time I listened to this, I was left very disappointed. Someone recommended Graveland to me, and I decided to listen to this. I found it bland and cliche. My second listen, however, gave me a few better feelings about it. Let's start with the guitar playing, which is undoubtedly the centerpiece of Carpathian Wolves. The album is not as riff based as any other Graveland album. There are very few catchy, folk inspired parts to be found. Instead, the guitars play more abstract, noisy riffs. More melodic moments, such as on the great "Barbarism Returns" do exist here, but they do not appear as much as usual for Graveland. I like the guitar playing here both for those rare melodic moments, and the fact that it creates a haunting atmosphere that actually isn't matched by any other album. A large part of this is the fuzzy guitar tone. It is not stripped completely of its warmth, but it is quite cold and eerie. It is very suited too the playing style here.

I have very little to say about the bass playing and the drumming on Carpathian Wolves. This is partly because the bass is relatively low in the mix, and it doesn't seem to do anything interesting. As for the drumming, it is solid, and deviates nicely from the typical blastbeat formula, but more could definitely happen with the drums.

Rob Darken has never been a very good vocalist, but Carpathian Wolves honestly contains a fairly good vocal performance. On albums such as Thousand Swords, he tends to take over the music with a very weird and off putting style. On Carpathian Wolves, he takes a more traditional black metal approach- his screams are higher and harsher. Additionally, his vocals are relatively low in the mix. They aren't massacred with effects, but there is a pretty interesting phaser effect on his voice, which gives him some uniqueness.

Keyboards help to advance the atmosphere of Carpathian Wolves further into its immersiveness. I really enjoy the synthesizer parts on this album. They, like the vocals, are relatively low in the mix, and their purpose here is to darken the album rather than be a main point of focus. I really like this approach to black metal synthesizers.

Overall, Carpathian Wolves is a great album. I do find it to be less memorable than most of Graveland's music, and this actually delivers a pretty hard blow to the album's score. If there were some riffs in the vein of Thousand Swords on here, Carpathian Wolves may very well have received a 100 score.

As Dark as it Gets - 90%

CrimsonFloyd, March 24th, 2012

Carpathian Wolves is the third and final pure black metal release from Graveland. The album centers on the theme of wolves and sheep. The sheep are the Christianized Poles who have forgotten their pagan roots. The wolves are the pagan warriors, who are raiding the Christian villages and tearing the sheep to shreds. This theme is captured in the album art, which depicts a pagan warrior praying to the ancient gods, side by side with a wolf. OK, there is no denying that this is all a little cheesy, but Graveland make it work. While this anthropomorphic theme might sound better suited for a young adult novel than for a serious work of art, Graveland make it effective through an absolutely terrifying performance.

Carpathian Wolves is one of the few black metal albums that is legitimately scary sounding. The music captures the spirit of the predator on the prowl and manifests it through the visceral sounds of Rob’s vicious snarls and Stygian riffs. Capricornus’s uninhibited, primitive drumming relentlessly batters the listener and provides the exclamation point.

The songs typically consist of two parts. First, there are the more thrashing passages, which are fast and violent as all hell. Then, there are the mid-paced passages, which tend to center around massive synths that bellow like the beasts of Hades. “Barbarism Returns” has the best balance of the two, seamlessly shifting from madding spirals of tremolo and blast bears to slow, doomy riffs and monolithic organs. “In the Northern Carpathians” exemplifies the more fast-paced style through five minutes of relentless, lambasting black metal. “Witches’ Holocaust” is the outlier and has a more epic sound. Patrician melodies dance about to a trotting rhythm as Rob vacillates between growls and clean chanting. This track is the best indicator where Graveland’s sound heads on subsequent releases.

The ambient pieces on Carpathian Wolves are world class. The intro is hands down the greatest moment of black ambient ever recorded. Gusting winds gently sway by while a pack of wolves bark, snarl and howl (both of which sound extremely authentic). Then there is the sound of a slowly palpitating war drum, which is soon accompanied by one of the darkest, most harrowing synth lines ever released on planet earth. You can envision the pack of wolves hungrily looking down from a vista onto the valley full of sheep below. The other ambient piece (the untitled third track) plays off the same theme. The synth hums a low, nightmarish tune while Rob howls like a wolf. Then there are the panicked cries of sheep, which sound like lost children crying for their mommies. Honestly, these ambient pieces are even more evil sounding than the metal tracks, which is no small feat!

While Carpathian Wolves lacks some of the dynamism of its predecessor, The Celtic Winter, it is still essential listening for fans of raw black metal. There are few albums that can touch this recording with regard to creating a truly dark atmosphere. If at times the compositions are a little predictable, that is well worth overlooking so as to experience the dark landscape Graveland express with this recording.

(Originally written for http://deinos-logos.blogspot.com)

Carpathian Wolves - 65%

Noctir, December 22nd, 2011

Carpathian Wolves is the first full-length album from Graveland, though The Celtic Winter contains just about as much actual music and possesses a higher sound quality. Released in December 1994, this record seems to represent a step backward and bears a number of weaknesses.

Musically, this effort leaves a lot to be desired. The riffs are, often, ineffective and forgettable. The drumming is very sloppy and continues to include very non-metal patterns that kill the atmosphere, at times. The vocals are decent, neither exceptionally good nor bad. There is an over-reliance on synth to carry the atmosphere of the album and that is one of the worst elements of Carpathian Wolves. Some of the passages are interesting and add to the horror vibe that is often present, but then the band gets carried away and fails to stop while they are ahead. The intro and outro are too long, as well. There are a number of good guitar melodies on this album, but they suffer from poor execution and the overall rotten production. That is the most frustrating thing about this release; every song bears some positive qualities and one can see a decent amount of potential, but the sloppy drumming and bad sound just prevent this from being what it could have been. Despite all of this, the morose open-arpeggio chords of "Witches Holocaust" and the cold tremolo melodies of "Unpunished Herd" manage to stand a little bit above the rest.

This entire endeavour was neutered, right from the start, due to the horrid production. The guitars are incredibly weak and pushed to the background, which serves as a death sentence. If it is not bad enough that the synth overpowers everything else, even the drumming is much higher in the mix than the guitars. This should never have been released, in this form. The guitars are always supposed to be the focal point. Had the mix been corrected, Carpathian Wolves would have been a much better album. Even the boring and uninspiring riffs could be overlooked, as there really is enough good material to make this a worthy effort.

Graveland's debut L.P. is rather disappointing, but not without any positive qualities. This was but the misstep down a path that would take the band very far from the promise that they displayed on The Celtic Winter. For less picky listeners, Carpathian Wolves is still worth checking out, but be warned that it is inferior to its predecessor in all ways.

Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com

Follows the pack - 64%

marktheviktor, May 18th, 2009

This is Graveland's first and only foray into straight-up black metal. It also sounds much closer to Tsjuder and early Dissection than the subsequent pagan black metal(and later pagan/Viking metal) that Graveland would become more known for. This too is the band's first full length after Rob Darken cut his teeth producing a number of raw demos while also contributing to other bands etc. and Carpathian Wolves is reminiscent of Immortal's debut LP in that this band didn't really find their identity and element of distinction until the sophomore effort.

How much you like Graveland and which era or album that you first heard from them will have alot to do with how much you enjoy Carpathian Wolves. Thousand Swords (one of the best black metal albums ever) was the first record from these guys that I had ever heard. This record was actually the last one I had ever heard from them. I had long since taken in many bands that sound like they do on Carpathian Wolves and I think Graveland would not be as notable had they just stuck to this sound.

What's on it? Well, since this and a Thousand Swords in their original Lethal Records issue are rarer than an albino Doberman Pinscher (the latter album rarer still than a Totenkopf mounted on a tiffany diamond, to me at least but nevermind), you probably own the No Colours re-issue. One of which contains a few bonus tracks from the rehearsals for this record. Those demo tracks are raw versions of a few of the original songs on Carpathian Wolves. As messy and fuzzy as those are, I think Rob Darken should have elected to stay the rawer route. The main versions are decent too but those backing synths do sound a little cliche even for a relatively early second wave black metal album.

The production sound is thick and the guitars are curdled in distortion levels that border on comical. Capricornus' drumming is equally awkward but the times are used to adequate effect though it can hardly be blamed since the bass is a non-factor. Ho-hum.

Though I have always preferred Graveland's early sound, this is not the band's best record. Interesting, yes. This had the potential to be a great album at root and the EP Impaler's Wolves demonstrated that this album can and should be worthy of a great re-recording by Rob Darken. It still sounds much better than alot of others trying to sound like it. Most of the songs here are admittedly samey and blunt but At the Pagan Samhain Night is a very quality song even though it fizzles out a bit at the end.

There are ambient sounds of winds and howling wolves among the proceedings too. While I can't quite pinpoint which band started this, I think Rob Darken might have popularized it from here as I have heard this many times elsewhere on black metal albums. I thought there would be more of such atmosphere infused into the arrangement of the songs but they still stick closer to old school black metal sound.

Many Graveland completists will probably hold this high among Rob Darken's best works. Metalheads have a funny knack of anointing many of their favorite band's first album as the best. I am not one to fall for that trap even if this band mimics very closely the sound chronology of one of my favorite bands: Bathory. Carpathian Wolves is if nothing else, a fun excursion of second wave black metal by a po-faced band until that Norse horn calls.

Graveland's best early album - 100%

picklekid, May 29th, 2007

This is the best of the early-era Graveland material for overall songwriting, atmosphere and the quality of musicianship. The intro is also one of the best, Darken is known for creating some of the coldest and most hateful keyboards passages in the black metal genre, and this is a prime example. The second track, Barbarism Returns, is a classic and my personal favorite. The keyboard breakdown ins simply jaw dropping in its epic majesty. Graveland can conjure the most intense atmospheres I have ever heard. In the Noerthern Carpathians is another classic track that applies some ice cold rythym guitar parts that Graveland were known for back in this era.

Overall , the production leaves alot to be desired, but the music more then makes up for this. The guitars are extremely raw and primal, using very abstract scale work to create a more eastern european flavor. The drums are done by the infamous Capricornus, and his style is all his own, uaing very bombastic and free form drumming that feel much like some form of pagan war drumming. The rawness and spontenaity of the drums creates a very war-like and chaotic feel that helped carve out the Graveland sound. The keyboards are perhaps the highlight, and Darkens best instrument ability-wise. I have never heard keyboards so raw and evil is his, they create a feeling of complete hatred for the christian race that is mesmerizing. Darkens vocals are easily some if the sickest in all of black metal. he sounds like a dying corpse, rasping out his last breath in the name of hate and war, and they add the perfect touch to the already grim sound.

I highly recommend this album to all fans of true extreme old-school black metal. This is some of the best polish black metal out there, and a must have for all Graveland fans.

A Notable Release For Polish Black Metal - 90%

Nocturniis, October 15th, 2004

"Carpathian Wolves" is an excellent album to have if you are new to black metal or just looking for something new. The songs are excellent, fast-paced black metal, and show influences of Bathory and Emperor (especially in the keyboard passages), which Darken has said he was inspired by. Darken's vocals can be compared to the raspy and choking style of Quorthon and Immortal's Abbath, with a little reverb added. Capricornus, who is often criticized for being off-tempo and missing beats, does make quite a few mistakes, but in the end he does a great job that fits the music and provides many good fills. Drums are given a reasonable level of reverb, and bass, handled by Karcharoth, is present and accentuates the mood of the album, providing a nice low end. Guitars are washed in reverb and distortion much like Emperor's sound on the "Wrath of the Tyrant" demo, and create an interesting sound, almost like a swarm of bees (sorry for the bad simile).
The production is very good, levels are sensible, and the sound isn't too trebly, but it still sounds raw in a good way. I'd say my favorite songs are "Barbarism Returns", and "At The Pagan Samhain Night".
If you have the No Colours Re-release, you get 4 bonus rehearsal tracks which have great sound quality and are played well by Darken and Co. Overall, I give this a 90/100 for it's replay value and because it is something every black metal fan should have.

Fuck vampire-chic fags - THIS IS BLACK METAL!!! - 88%

Vic, August 3rd, 2002

Fucking awesome. Too bad that's too short of a review to be totally fair, but to be blunt and up front Graveland's first full-length album "Carpathian Wolves" is one original and impressive piece of Polish Black Metal and a must for anyone who is a fan of the style. The six songs on this album are some of the most triumphantly evil songs I've ever heard. The songs are fairly long and well-arranged, shifting between two or three basic ideas each, and the tempos shift from fast blasting to what I call the 'triumphant strut' rhythm (that triplet-based 'da-DUM, da-DAH' beat that Darken always throws a keyboard riff over, like in "Barbarism Returns" or "At the Pagan Samhain Night"). The guitars are almost washed out in a haze of reverb (very unlike the crisp guitar sounds on "The Celtic Winter", or later on "Following the Voice of Blood), but they blend with Darken's grim, hoarse-rasp vocals creating an indistinct, almost ambient sound - a perfect base for Darken's chilly keyboard playing. Even the bass (performed on this album by 'scene-traitor' Karcharoth) provides some melodic drive here and there (most notably in "Into the War"). This album, however, may be the one on which Capricornus earned his 'sloppy' reputation; he occasionally drops beats out of blast sections, he comes in late after some fills (which sound uneven anyway), and his tempo shifts (like in "Barbarism Returns") range from odd to just plain wrong (Hurry up and wait...) - but somehow you never really notice unless you listen to the album with a metronome. I don't know if it's a testament to the musicianship of Darken playing around the inconsistent beat or simply the songs being so good you never think of paying attention, but I seriously can't imagine this being played by any other drummer. Truly a triumph of songwriting essence over aesthetic details.

With an album this good, it's almost an injustice to have to pick a 'best song' - they're really all great songs and quite unique from each other. "Barbarism Returns" is noteworthy because it's probably the one song on the album most representative of the whole album's style and atmosphere. I also rather like "At the Pagan Samhain Night" with it's evil keyboard riff-slow sections and the guitar-bass melodies of "Into the War", but really the whole album is brilliant. Track this one down - it's a keeper.

(Originally published at LARM (c) 1999)