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Rekindling the Fire - 70%

CrimsonFloyd, April 23rd, 2013

By the mid-2000s, it appeared Graveland had run out of steam. 2003’s The Fire of Awakening lacked originality and inspiration and though 2004’s Dawn of Iron Blades offered some new ideas, it suffered from poor production and a dearth of quality riffs. 2005’s Fire Chariot of Destruction is by no means a return to Graveland’s glory days, but it is a major step in the right direction.

The first thing that stands out about Fire Chariot of Destruction is the high quality of the production. Traditionally, Graveland records have been lo-fi affairs. While Darken has often made the most of sub-par production, the previous two records were notably flat and lifeless. In contrast, Fire Chariot of Destruction is a big, full-bodied album. The bass and drums are strong and heavy (especially those thunderous war drums) and the shrill guitars have some real bite. This creates quite the groundwork for the record’s highlight—the stellar choir performances from The Atlantean Monumental Choir and Ancient Valkyrian Choir. These excellent choir performances give Fire Chariot of Destruction (and the records that follow it) a majestic quality.

At its best, the contrast between the harsh viking black metal and the divine choirs creates a brilliant duality of brutality and elegance. The album’s opener, “War Wolf” is the best example of this, ebbing between gnarly riffs that swerve and slash and divine moments of heavenly vocals. Other times, the two dimensions come together to offer hard-hitting choruses that strongly recall Bathory’s Hammerheart. Track two, “River of Tears” epitomizes this sound with a solemn set of vocal lines accompanied by massive heavy metal riffs.

While the overall sound quality is vastly improved, the songwriting on Fire Chariot of Destruction is highly inconsistent. Though “War Wolf” and “River of Tears” are nothing short of excellent, the rest of the songs bleed into one another, offering a series of decent but indistinct riffs and hooks. The remainder of the album does create an effective atmosphere, but there is a scarcity of bright ideas.

Fire Chariot of Destruction is definitely an upgrade over the previous two Graveland records. The sound quality is excellent and the atmosphere is potent. However, the album is ultimately a tease. After the imperious quality of the first two tracks it’s really disappointing to see that Rob has nothing special to offer the rest of the way out. Fortunately, Graveland’s next release, Will Stronger than Death sticks to the same formula but offers far more quality and variety.

Originally written for deinos-logos.blogspot.com

The best of the "newer" Graveland - 84%

PhantomMullet, November 14th, 2011

If you were to take every Graveland album within the past ten years and condense them into one album, you would probably get something pretty awesome. After all, long and militant metal tracks with pagan themes in the vein of Bathory will please many listeners. But instead we have 6-7 albums that all sound very similar in song writing and instrumentation, with minor differences between each one. Nevertheless, none of the albums individually are bad, but if you had to pick one to go with, and only one, Fire Chariot of Destruction might be the best choice.

Fire Chariot of Destruction (FCD) comes off as a lot more energetic than other Graveland releases that came out around the same time. Even the name suggests that the music contained within will be a lot more tremendous and heavy hitting. This is true from the beginning - the opening track "War Wolf" starts out with incredibly potent drumming - percussion that sounds like the marching theme of a pagan tribe about to raid a nearby village. Then the guitars and vocals kick in at full force with occasional chanting/choir interludes in between to break between the chaos. It's a very powerful sounding song that will not only shock, wake up anyone who might make habits of falling asleep while listening to Graveland's more boring songs that only lag.

Another example is "Flaming Wrathful Hate", a song you can't accuse Darken of for false advertising. It's a lot heavier, angrier and faster than songs on other recent Graveland albums. "River of Tears" shows a more atmospheric and emotional side, making use of the appropriate screams throughout and conveying a great sense of sorrow throughout. My favorite track may be "Motherland"...it starts off at a moderate pace, but slowly builds up as the drums accelerate. It has that regal feeling of slowly marching to the battlefield and then the chaotic charges that occur and remain until the song ends.

The bottom line is that Fire Chariot is still your standard Graveland album - long tracks, solid enough riffs, raspy growls, and funny Engrish (seriously, read some of the lyrics!), but because I feel like it has more meat, less fat, and some nice spices, it makes it a lot more memorable and a good start to anyone who wants to hear Graveland for the first time. Definitely give this one a chance.

It Takes a Pillage - 68%

marktheviktor, September 1st, 2010

Fire Chariot of Destruction is as epic as it is ferocious but is it still fresh? I'm a huge Graveland guy. If I were writing this review entry to myself, I would score it higher but I write with the purpose towards the recommendation and therefore I become a reporter and it is my duty to report that at best, the album sounds like a successful "do-over" of Dawn of Iron Blades. At worst, the album is just more of some of those riffs behind programmed drums with obligatory Valkyrie choirs inserted here and the terms "ancestors" and Darken's pet mantra "follow the voice of blood" blather in the lyrics there and all about.The music itself is adventurous as usual but the actual undertaking of it is not. Don't get me wrong, this a fine album. Not everyone will want to be a completist however and the enjoyability hinges on relative quantity since the choice of Graveland albums is large and the quality is close between them.

In case you are wondering, my remark about this record being like a "do over" of the band's previous album to this was not necessarily a sleight. As a matter of fact, there are still a few things I enjoy better about that album than Fire Chariot. But Dawn of Iron Blades did have a couple of flaws of frustration that this album fixes. The first being that the production quality sounds much improved. Does this have anything to do with how much more aggressive it sounds also? I think it does in part. I also think Rob Darken's riffs are a lot better here on this one. They supply more consistency for melodies and epicness whereas Dawn of Iron Blades had some extremely awesome opening riffs to songs that fizzled out because the rest of them seemed to not do anything interesting. While this album has riffs that seem faster and more streamlined, you should also know that there is a big wall of sound backing it all up giving it a more terrifying epicness. However, I liked the drums on this album a lot less than the ones on even Dawn which weren't all that great but they had their moments. The structure of the ones found on Fire Chariot are too unpronounced and I noticed it most when there were transitions. Let's go with the song River of Tears. A splendidly epic track containing everything I love about this era of Graveland! It's got the exact tremolo riffs I prefer with palm muted intonations. It's another one of those black/Viking cuts where there is that sense of epic battle speed ramming at you ready to storm a castle. But it's too bad Darken couldn't have given the song the more creative pounding of drumming that it could have used. The hits aren't bad but they are nothing not heard before and there should be more thunder and catchiness to them instead of an afterthought.

From Creed of Iron onward, this era of the band has been described as "epic pagan metal" and/or Viking metal. At this point, it would seem the difference between the two such descriptions is negligible. Fire Chariot of Destruction however seems to me to be the utter representation of the Viking metal description for this band with the intimidating epic sound and presentation in the artwork. The subgenre of Viking metal can be unclear sometimes. But not here. And since I don't think I've encountered the term "Viking" used in any of the band's lyrics it is just assumed they are since Bathory is an obvious influence in this music. Odinism is to Wotanism what Roman mythology was to Greek mythology in that one is basically incorporated from the other. That's what is really cool about how "Viking metal-ish" Fire Chariot is: whether it's about warriors of Wotan or the Norse marauders from Scandinavia makes no real difference here because it sounds as fiery and aggressive as the blazing flames burning the dragon ship on the cover and the context, history and tradition is one in the same more or less.

All of the songs are generally awesome that way but I found Flaming Wrathful Hate to be the lone filler track. It's relatively slower than all the other songs but it's so bland that I can never recall exactly how it goes even if I hear it again and again after numerous plays.

There's another slight annoyance that while not unique to this band, I found it more to be the case on this album than anywhere else. On some of these songs it seems that Rob Darken doesn't always know how to create a proper ending for them. This can be especially frustrating since the "ok bam! song's over now" conclusions undermine the glorious epicness of those tracks. That flaw gives the otherwise splendid production a rather cheap feel.

Though I've seen Graveland albums become relatively more available for sale of late, these records are still not the easiest to come by. And hence, I still see a lot of people wondering which Graveland release they should go get next. To those people, I advise this: Pick only ONE among the choice of demos of Drunemeton or In the Glare of Burning Churches or The Cletic Winter-but not ALL. Then buy ALL three of the albums of Thousand Swords AND Following the Voice of Blood AND Immortal Pride (that whole classic trilogy is a must.) Now, the recommended combination from 2000 to present gets a little dicier. That's a good thing which is to say they are all good but-and this was my whole quandry with this album-there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing. So here it goes: Pick either Fire Chariot of Destruction or Will Stronger Than Death (but NOT both) along with one choice of any of the other Graveland full-lengths from this era as a side dish (it does not matter which, I say). It's hard not to want to go after all of these, I know. Think of it like being in the chow line at recruit training where they only let you have only one choice among the two entrees with your choice of one side. It's for your own good and you will enjoy it more. That comes to six albums-three of which are particular "must haves". Got that?

I happen to like Will Stronger Than Death better than this album but my above recommendation is purposeful when I admit that had I bought Fire Chariot of Destruction first, I probably would prefer it over that one instead.

Magnificent - 100%

Sargon_The_Terrible, March 2nd, 2008

At last, at last I have in my hands the most recent Graveland opus Fire Chariot Of Destruction, which I approached with some worry. I loved Creed Of Iron and The Fire Of Awakening, but I thought 2004's Dawn Of Iron Blades was a major step back. Would this be awesome, or awful? Thank the One-Eyed God that this is awesome, and I think Fire Chariot Of Destruction is one of Darken's best albums to date.

Gone are the dull riffs and flat guitar tone of the last album, this is the Graveland I love: huge, epic riffs, monstrous pounding war-drums, and an atmosphere of unspeakable Aryan pride. "War Wolf" hammers out in grand fashion with a ten-minute march to war, and the album never really lets up. This is the kind of album where you stop whatever you are doing every few minutes to shake your head in wonder and say aloud "Man, this is a great fucking album." There are just no clinkers here, no dead spots, even though this is a long album, I don't wish it shorter by a second. "River Of Tears", "Flaming Wrathful Hate", "Dance Of Axes And Swords", just one killer epic march after another. A lot of people call Graveland "The Polish Bathory", and that may be an accurate assessment, but Darken maintains a snarling anger and hatred that Quorthon largely moved away from after Blood Fire Death, and rather than a soundtrack to a movie about Nordic history, this is more like the sound of the Einherjier coming to hack you to pieces right now. Fire Chariot Of Destruction isn't a retrospective, it's the fucking battle horns of Ragnarok. If you like Graveland's more recent works, then this is a no-brainer. No matter how much of a pain in the ass it is finding Graveland albums, this one is worth the trouble ten times over. Masterful.

Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com

Into the Battle We Charge! - 77%

GuyOne, April 30th, 2007

The whine of a horse pulling its chariot into battle as the war drums echo in the behind. The grunts of the warriors, who carry their hilts swaying at side ready to serve master, shuffle across the wind torn field in rhythm with the drums. This march can be heard as clear as the blue sky above their heads. As clear as the dry crack of thunder above head on a dark stormy night. This march kicks up the mud below their boots, it dirties their boots and legs. To those who dare to take their eyes off the approaching enemy at place them down upon the mud they treck through will find the same filth there as in the enemy's eyes. War. Victory. Faith. Belief. Pride. These are the belonging sounds.

Fire Chariot of Destruction is a continued trend (started with Dawn of the Iron Blades) of turning Graveland's musical style back to the sounds of Thousand Swords and Follow the Voice of Blood but keeping the "cleaner" production and more seasoned musicianship of the later albums. The music isn't as thrashy as Thousand Swords and isn't as atmospheric (in the same sense) as either of the two mentioned albums but that doesn’t prevent Fire Chariot of Destruction from being a solid release on par with such releases. What Rob Darken brings back is the constant presence of tremolo picking in traditional black metal style as well as the “pagan folkish” stylish of Thousand Swords and Follow the Voice of Blood. The album also has its fair share of the more melodic styles of Memory and Destiny or any other recent album.

The opening track gives a great sense of how the entire album eventually turns out musically but it really does not set the tone for the atmosphere. While the riffs of each song are very epic and melodies much longer than “usual” which allows Rob to make the long songs without them seeming too drawn out or boring: “River of Tears”, the track to follow the long opening track, is what really gives Fire Chariot of Destruction its real sense of epicness and pride. While most songs really return to the feel of early “Pagan” Graveland, this track takes the epic sound of recent albums and seems to stretch the feeling even beyond that. The howling cries of the intro and into the slow riffs that inch forward second by second mixed with the great male choirs really adds to an extraordinarily epic moment. “River of Tears” eventually picks up to a pace that matches the other tracks but because of its distinct intro the feeling and atmosphere that quickly vanishes still lingers somewhere in your memory like a thought that won’t leave because the impact of it was too much to forget. When it returns after the first “verse”, it is much welcomed. It adds to the atmosphere greatly, even more so then the intro. This entire cut really shows how Graveland has advanced over the years and (to me) displays exactly what Rob has been trying to perfect over the years and eventually has doing it. The impact left by this track severely affects the atmosphere in the tracks to follow.

Each song after continues (slowly or quickly, there is a variety to tempo here) with the howling shrieks and deep male choirs echoing in the back of your mind. It sits there. The knowledge of what lies ahead if you are to fail in your task and not live up to the strength Wotan has blessed you with before the dusts of battle were forced into the air around you and your fellow men. The horns of “Creator and Destroyer” that lead the mid-high tempo rhythm send you into the midst of war at full steam. The choirs that soon follow tell of just how epic and important your victory is to the survival of your ways of life. When the build p inally reaches its climax, “Dance of Axes and Swords” bursts with a melody that could only give the sense and imagery of swords and spears clashing in air above battle worn faces baring deep scars and determined eyes.

This is easily the cleanest production on any Graveland release. The instruments are clear and easily heard as is same for the notes and even the vocals are easily understood in most parts. As well as these melodies are the music not complex at all -- though it should be noted that complexity has never been part of Graveland.

The rhythm guitars of “Creator and Destroyer” will send you on a spiral path down memory lane to “Battle of Wotan’s Beasts as it steals almost the exact same riff. There are little hints here and there through out the album that will remind you of past accomplishments by Graveland. It helps give the feeling that it isn’t just album after album but quite possibly an entire journey in itself.

“Flaming Wrathful Hate” and “Prayer For My Ancestors” do have their share of sub-par boring moments, especially compared to the climax of the title track. But these small bumps just don’t hold enough on the stronger moments to make much of an impact on the over all enjoyment of the release.

Reading through the lyrics it is not hidden that these lyrics are based on the “controversial” topic of “white pride”. While the lyrics are not extremely well written, whether you like the topics or not, glancing through the booklet while listening to the album will really give more of a sense of what these songs are representing and the over all atmosphere this album has to offer. There is definitely a lot of “hate” references in the lyrics and sound of the music. But when you sit and digest the actual melodies there is a very strong underlying sense of sadness. Which, to me, is very dominant in the track “Flaming Wrathful Hate”, as odd as it sounds.

This album doesn’t stray far away from what Graveland has been since the mid to later 90’s. It is more of an on going process of perfecting a certain sound and capitalising from lessons learnt over time. As with every release, it is a great addition to the Graveland discography, and though it might be tough for some listeners to swallow, it is definitely for anyone who has appreciated any Graveland in the past.

Masterpiece After Masterpiece - 93%

ict1523, May 14th, 2006

Rob Darken continues to amaze me with his consistent and excellent black/pagan metal albums. It also amazes me at the speed he produces them at, he's averaging almost 1 album per year, which is great for those of us that want more and more.

While this album does progress a little bit from the others, and is a little bit faster, it still is similar to his previous works, which is not a bad thing, because it still sounds great.

The album as a whole does have some boring moments especially in songs such as "Flaming Wrathful Hate" and in "Dance of Axes and Swords", however the greatness of 90% of this album makes up for that. The best songs would definitely have to be "River of Tears". This one comes close to actually bringing tears to my eyes because of how sad and just plain awesome the shrieks at the beginning are. And then the very atmospheric melody. It also is very awesome. The real riffs kick in at 1:22 and those are also pretty damn awesome. They are pretty fast and angry, but the quiet melodies in the background bring sadness to the mood also. And the vocals begin around 1:53, and those even though they are relatively quiet in the blend of instruments bring more evil to the sound. "Fire Chariot of Destruction" is also a great song and begins with some pretty fast riffs as well as great drums in the background. The riffs change at around 0:41 as the vocals come in, and those change the sound from somewhat happier to just downright angry. "Motherland" also is up there with those grim but some of the best black metal riffs at 3:10 and at 6:06...they are just awesome and bring shivers down my spine.

Another odd and rather funny quality of this album is Rob Darken's vocals. If you listen closely for example in the song "River of Tears", he pronounces many of the words exactly like they would be pronounced in Polish such as arrived, killed, and a few more in the first 3 verses. For those of you out there that are Polish, you may find Darken's pronounciations quite amusing.

Poland's Answer to Bathory - 92%

Iron_In_The_Fog, January 27th, 2006

1. War Wolf

"War Wolf" starts of with some marching drums and grunts from Darken, before straight in with some fast paced, double bass drumming and fast pace riffage. This track has a dark underlining it, mainly achieved by the use of keyboards by Darken. This track clocking in at just over 10 minutes doesn't get boring if you enjoy Graveland signature Pagan Metal sound, If you are new to Graveland you may find this track hard to get into. Around the 4:00 minute mark the atmosphere changes as Darken piles on the keyboard synth with female choirs very reminiscent of later Bathory. The drumbeat slows down, still double bass, but slower, until it picks up again around the 5-minute mark. Once again the atmosphere of the song changes back, as the song progresses it gets darker and you can hear it more prominently. This atmosphere carries on for about 3 minutes, which can get slightly tedious until he reverts back to the female choirs again and the change of atmosphere change follows. Around the 9:00 minute mark the song stops and the marching drums and grunts from the start of the track return but this time you can hear Darken chanting over it, the words however are indecipherable.

Overall I give this song a 7/10 I would of rated it higher but for 10 minutes this track doesn’t change much at all and can get slightly tedious.

2. River of Tears

"River of Tears" opens with some shrieking sounds and more female vocals as the song reaches the 0:40 mark the guitars come in with the female choirs creating a melody line over the slow doomy drums and guitars. The song picks up around the 1:20 mark and the drums create a very catchy rhythm over the fast pace riffage, as the song progresses it creates a very heavy wall of sound accompanied by the drums before changing around the 3:30 mark to the Graveland sound more reminiscent of "Creed of Iron." This carries on for a short while as the track develops Darken returns to the short doomy beginning and catchy fast paced riffs and drums. Around the 6:00 minute mark the whole feel of the song changes and gives of a very heroic sound, Darken giving off a much more later Bathory sound, very reminiscent of "Nordland 1 & 2" but in no way a clone.

Overall this song deserves a 9/10. This is song is one of the best on the album.

3. Fire Chariot of Destruction

"Fire Chariot of Destruction" jumps in once again fast paced double bass drumming and riffage, like "War Wolf" this track has a dark undertone to it but much more sinister sounding that "War Wolf" did. Around the 3:38 mark the drumming changes slightly for about 10 seconds before jumping back into fast paced double bass drumming. As the song carries on a very prominent guitar melody comes in at about 4:44 and rejuvenates the song as the atmosphere changes and the song you can really hear the wall of sound that Darken has created in this song.

Overall I give this a 5/10 because for 6 minutes there is only 1 tempo change in the whole song, this is song is tedious after the first 3 minutes. Probably one of the worst songs on the album.

4. Flaming Wrathful Hate

"Flaming Wrathful Hate" starts off with a fast paced hypnotic riff before the drums kick in with a drum roll, this atmosphere carries on for 2 minutes before changing tempo and the atmosphere of the song changes, throughout the song you can hear the synth, at times somewhat overpowering. At about 3:30 the drums stop and the hypnotic riffage and synth come back in and the drums start up once again, this song is not as up tempo as the other songs before it but still fast nonetheless. As the song draws to a close the atmosphere changes and becomes dark showing of once again the dark undertones of "Fire Chariot..." & "War Wolf."

Overall this song gets a 7/10 because even though at times I find myself getting bored with it, it has a unique sound to the rest of the material.

5. Creator and Destroyer

"Creator and Destroyer" starts with the sound of a battle horn, and this horn follows through the entire first half of the song giving off a very heroic sound with its melody and memorable vocals and guitar riffs. This song is or though it fits in nicely with the rest of the album is completely different in atmosphere and feel, 2:15 in to the song their is a tempo change as the guitars subside followed by a short guitar melody line, the drums kick back in and the guitars shine through with a catchy riff very reminiscent of 'The Fire Of Awakening' album. This carries on for about 2 minutes before the song kicks back up a gear and the fast paced riffs and drums come back followed by the battle horns. The riff changes into a slower catchier tune more in the vein of the ending section to "River of Tears."

Overall this track gets a 9/10. This along with "River of Tears" is one of the best songs on the album.

6. Prayer For My Ancestors

"Prayer For My Ancestors" comes in full swords blazing, fast drums, fast riffs, however what makes the beginning of this song different is that the keyboards overpower more than usual and create a different atmosphere altogether. At the 1:20 mark the atmosphere changes and gives off that trademark Graveland feel much in the same line as "Creator and Destroyer." This carries on for 4 minutes until the atmosphere becomes darker but a different kind of dark, the riffs although fast give off a heavier sound. Around the 5-minute mark the song changes and the atmosphere once again becomes more heroic sounding. As the end of the song closes in the keyboards become more prominent with a menacing male choir that follows the same melody as the riff.

Overall this track gets an 8/10 because it combines the dark undertones of the earlier tracks with the more heroic sections of the later songs.

7. Dance of Axes and Swords

"Dance of Axes and Swords" starts of with a mid tempo beginning and slightly different style of riffing this carries on for the first 1:10 before changing into a more full bodied riff style and heavier tone, giving off an heroic sound but a more menacing sound, this is then followed by fast paced double bass drumming and riffage with a solo melody over the top, the melodies and riffs change slightly over the next few minutes. Around the 3:30 mark the riffs take a turn and give off a sound once again of earlier Graveland i.e. "The Fire Of The Awakening/Creed Of Iron" period, before changing back to the fast paced riffs and drums once again. This carries on until 6:40 where the riffs change back to the atmosphere of early Graveland again before ending abruptly.

Overall this track gets 9/10 because it is one of the better tracks off the album.

8. Motherland

Now we come to "Motherland" the final track, the track only clocking in at 6:48 making it the shortest track on the album. "Motherland" starts very fast paced once again with the drums following a similar double bass pattern, the song has a dark undertone to it, running through the whole song. Around the 3:10 mark the riffs change and give off a heroic sound again but much different to the rest of the album. You can hear the keyboards running all the way through this track creating a slightly brooding atmosphere. The closing section of the song creates a heroic sound using tremolo riffs all in harmony with each other, creating a good end to a good album.

Overall this track gets 9/10 because it is definitely one of the better tracks off the album.

Overall i gave this album 92% because all though it is quite a remarkable album and it does encompass a lot of the last 4 album's sound it does have a tendency to get tedious. I feel that if Rob Darken had released "Fire Chariot Of Destruction" as an EP with 5-6 tracks on and focused more of the ideas into the tracks rather than spacing them out longer than needed it would've got my full 100%.