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A turning point for Graveland... - 75%

VileRancour, August 3rd, 2002

This may very well be Graveland's answer to Bathory's Blood, Fire, Death; less from a strictly musical viewpoint than as an artistic transition point. Both albums see their respective composers moving from playing fast, chaotic black metal into the realm of slowe, more epic and more melodic Viking metal. While Bathory's album had the tracks split more or less evenly between those two modes of expression, Graveland's fifth opus finds Darken effectively blending the two approaches throughout each of the album's tracks, brewing a unique - though very, very recognizably Polish - kind of sound.

Capricornus is listed as a session member here; just one of the factors making it clear that this is becoming more and more Bobby's baby. The latter's famous keyboard interludes are as abundant as ever, but it's when the keyboards make their appearance over the rest of the music which marks the album's most typical moments. Capricornus' ubiquitous triumphant, warlike 6/8 drum beat; Darken's melodic, epic, folk-based 2-note open riffing; it's all here - envisioning a Graveland album without these? Might as well expect a shot of Herr Darken proudly waving the Israeli flag on the back cover...

One cannot help but wonder if the lads haven't been listening to some old Manowar during the writing process for this album. For, indeed, ye olde warrior cheese makes a cameo appearance during some of the slower grand majestic riffs with that sort of bombastic drumming - Into Glory Ride might not be such an out-of-place reference point. I imagine that the sort of warrior ethos which Graveland are targeting in their listeners is supposed to reside deep in the meta-genetic ancestral European memory, rather than in More Adventures For Dragon-Slayers (The Dungeon Master's Edition), but the atmosphere isn't that far. Plus, quite eerily, there's a remarkable resemblance in the production department as well, other than the lack of an ego-boosted bass guitar. The same thin-but-organic '80s-style guitar distortion is there, along with the reverb on the drums.

Why the not-very-high rating? Songwriting-wise, one might notice a certain lack of variety here, coupled with an overuse of the same compositional elements. Repetitiveness does not go down well with Graveland's specific style of music (after all, it's neither Burzum nor Ildjarn), and as a result the songs tend to blend together sometimes. Though at the end of the day it's all a function of how focused or distracted the listener is.

And the artwork? As is the case with a lot of Graveland's later releases (especially the re-releases, which seem to be cropping up at an alarming rate lately), you will enjoy it, if you don't mind shots of Rob in full medieval battle regalia, and a few things which look suspiciously similar to exercise screenshots from a Photoshop manual.