Monday, September 5, 2011

Graveland - The Celtic Winter (1994)

The Celtic Winter is the sixth demo release from the Polish Black Metal band, Graveland. It has been issued in various forms, as a cassette demo, an MCD and even on CD as a full-length. While many consider this 1994 album to be the band's first L.P., it is not officially so. Regardless of this, it stands as Graveland's finest release and the most valuable musical contribution Rob Darken made to the Black Metal scene.

"The Gates to the Kingdom of Darkness" was the first Graveland song I ever heard, and I immediately likened it to Burzum, for some reason. This is one of the better songs that the band has ever recorded and it gave me somewhat of a wrong impression, as far as this band was concerned. It created expectations that I don't think they ever managed to live up to, which is a shame since the band has put out some decent stuff.

Musically, this comes off as owing a lot to the Norwegian Black Metal scene. In some ways, it gives the impression of being what Emperor would sound like without all of the synth overpowering the mix. Thankfully, the guitars are the most dominant instrument, as they should be. However, the music is rather bare and the riffs are not all that memorable. There are no icy cold tremolo riffs, which may be disappointing for some. The band appears to shine the most during the slower sections, which are sometimes accompanied by bits of keyboard effects. This is done to assist with creating a dark and obscure atmosphere, though it does not fully live up to its potential. The drumming is a little annoying, at times, including some strange polka beats. As for the vocals are in the typical style of the era, not really standing out from the rest of their peers, but suiting the music just fine.

The album flows well enough, beginning with a brief intro and a couple faster-paced songs. Due to the awkward nature of the playing, it never really seems to fully accomplish what it is aiming for, but the results aren't bad. Things slow down a bit near the middle and then, after a short interlude, the final pieces are at a much slower tempo, more suitable for a funeral. Highlights include "The Night of Fullmoon" and "The Return of Funeral Winds". While it does not match up to many of the other albums released that year, such as Transilvanian Hunger, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, or Pentagram, The Celtic Winter is a solid album and a good representation of what Graveland was all about.