One of the Polish pagan metal legends Graveland has returned with the fresh studio album Hour of Ragnarok in collaboration with the music labels Inferna Profundus, Forever Plagued and The Oath Records. And it is their thirteenth full-length work through their 32-year long career.
Hour of Ragnarok is in a way their turning point; once again Graveland is a real band, so apart from their mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Rob Darken, the musicians Skyth (bass) and M. Ahrin (drums) have joined the band, enhancing the teamwork. And although this album continues the last works musically and spiritually, there are also a few changes, not very audible, but these small shifts make the music more focused and holistic. Due to Darken’s political views there were some accusations for his support to the Nazi ideology, but Graveland isn’t a political band, Darken has used the language of Aryan supremacy in his band only in a historical way and through the pagan traditions. And now when all the misunderstandings are forgotten, the band can again concentrate on its musical goals.
The folk side on this album still has strong roots, though ethnical spirit doesn’t overburden the black metal aggression, musically Graveland have never ultimately left black metal realm. Yes, they aren’t into Satanism or death worshipping anymore, but nevertheless their folk metal is inclined more towards black metal than towards traditional and world music. This time the level of epic solemnity was gradually increased, but anyway, the ceremonial spirit doesn’t play a dominant role on Hour of Ragnarok, the epicness rather hovers discreetly in the background on an ongoing basis. Yes, there’s still so much Bathory influence, but also the attempts to reach the epic mastery in the Summoning’s manner increases the overall atmospheric impact. But Graveland are too down-to-earth, too straightforward in comparison to other epic dimensions of fantasy worlds of Summoning’s music. And of course, for 30 years of existence, Darken has found the way how to express his unique artistic ideas through the music of Graveland.
The songs are rather long; the tendency to transform them into more festive patterns is typical for Graveland’s last releases, expanding the atmospheric and epic mood with beautiful chorales and the imitation of brass instruments. And Hour of Ragnarok almost breathes out the optimistic aura; every song imbues some kind of hope for a better future. Even the darkest moments aren’t soaked into desperate frustration; Graveland knows how to stay strong and sane even during the darkest times. Yes, there are some anxiety issues (“The three Gifts of the Gods”), military vibes (“Conspiracy of the Wizards”) or classical music influence with clean voice (“Children of Hyperborea”), but common mood is so smooth and calm, so no need to focus on separate compositions, the integrity of the album is much more important. And despite this holistic perception, sometimes the harmony is challenged by overabundance of the elements, when the black/death metal meets the ethnic openness under the epic pomposity of atmospheric blasts, making it a bit messy. But these moments are rare, and their intensity can’t defile the general sounding with irreversible chaotic sensations.
The Polish pagan metal scene has its own reputation on a worldwide scale, preferring to emphasize the Slavonic spirit in a traditional manner. But Graveland’s music combines the Eastern and Western cultures, focusing on the lifestyle of ancient paganism, and concentrating on the values of German mythology. Hour of Ragnarok is a solid and cohesive album, very Gravelandish on all items, but no one ever doubted that with so much talent and artistic devotion, Graveland will be well prepared for the last battle of the Gods.
Release date: August 23rd, 2021
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