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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.