Veles was yet another Polish Black Metal band that was affiliated with Rob Darken. Their first demo, The Triumph of Pagan Beliefs, was released in 1994 and is probably the best material that they recorded. This is nothing very original, or even as good as those that they were influenced by, but that is not to say that a demo necessarily has to be unique. This type of music is very much about maintaining the traditions of those that came before, but it is always more meaningful when a band manages to harness that spirit and still manage to have their own identity.
This is raw Black Metal in the typical mid-90s style. This demo contains five songs, showing rather dynamic songwriting compared to a lot of bands that were making demos around this time. It begins in a fast-paced and intense manner, before slowing down. "Majesty of War" was the first track that I ever heard by this band, and remained in my head despite not encountering this release again for some years. The main riffs are very memorable and the songwriting is quite solid. "Black Flames Spread Warfare" has a somewhat weak middle section, but the faster riffs and acoustic parts keep things interesting. Of course, the band's Polish roots are easily noticeable, with the same type of odd, mid-paced drumbeats that are present on the old Graveland recordings. "Forgotten Time-Honoured Tradition" is completely built around such rhythms. The connection does not end there, as Rob Darken handled the keyboards for this effort. His presence is quite obvious, though the music is not totally drenched in synth. The vocals have a decent amount of reverb, which adds to the hellish effect.
The sound on here is pretty decent. Naturally, the production is raw, which suits the music very well. The keyboards, when present, are loud enough to accentuate the atmosphere but never drown out the rest. The guitars have a thin, sharp sound with a lot of fuzz, in the old Black Metal style. The vocals are fairly balanced, never fading away or rising too high as with some demos from this era.
For those that are interested in Black Metal from this very productive time period, The Triumph of Pagan Beliefs should not disappoint. It is fairly average, compared to everything else that was being released back then, but it holds its own fairly well. Veles should definitely appeal to fans of old Graveland and Infernum, and maybe to those into the LLN bands as well.