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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.