Graveland - Hour of Ragnarok
Forever Plagued
Pagan Metal
8 songs (50:18)
Release year: 2021
Graveland, Forever Plagued
Reviewed by Goat

An impressive twentieth album from this long-running project of Rob Darken and comrades (which does include various Polish language versions and re-recordings) Hour of Ragnarok sees Graveland in as darkly grandiose a mindset as you'd expect from that title. As ever, the musical focus is on the raw-edged epic pagan battery, snarled vocals atop a melodic mixture of riffs and keyboards, and as ever, it ranges from good to dull - although this does lean more towards the former! The human drummer on this album, Ahrin, certainly helps give the tribal-edged percussion an extra bit of flavour with an audibly skilful performance, yet generally the impact of the material rests on the songwriting, a mixed bag. Five to seven minute chunks of blackened metal are the norm, and those who appreciate past works from the band will be in heaven (or should that be Valhalla?) This is pagan metal at its most ridiculously arrogant, war metal as made by fans of swooping classical marches, and when it works can be highly effective.

Opener The Wolf of Twilight is one of the highlights here, a fast-paced barrage of war drums and various embellishments such as flute trills. The neoclassical melodies are hugely effective and help elevate the underlying grimy metal pound, yet the production also buries the guitars under so much that sometimes it's near-impossible to hear them. Generally the album is something like a sped-up Summoning with more monotonous vocals, and it can be an additional disappointment; more variety in that area alone would be enough to push Hour of Ragnarok higher in quality. As it is, a few listens in will reveal that there are subtler differences between tracks; the way that Conspiracy of the Wizards switches from speedier battery to slower, more orchestral pomp is solid, for instance, and also different to the slightly meandering title track. And the more operatic male and choral vocals that briefly appear on Children of Hyperborea should have been built upon further, especially given that this is a fifty-minute-plus album in need of a little variety...

Thankfully the quality levels mostly manage to hold through to the album's later moments, although by Three Gifts of the Gods it can seem that the band are repeating tricks rather than introducing new ones! Longest track on the album Enlightened by the Wisdom of Runes slows things down a little more to show off the keyboard lines well, and closer River of Tears slows the pace even more and even deconstructs the band's sound a little. It's about as close to anything progressive as the album gets, but does hint at a more ambitious, expansive sound from Graveland. Of course, no-one listens to Graveland for progressiveness! in sound or politics, and the increase in quality that Hour of Ragnarok shows from, say, ten years ago is impressive. Sure, they are still underachieving given what this sound should be capable of achieving, but those who know the band to any extent will be pleased overall with this.

Killing Songs :
The Wolf of Twilight, Conspiracy of the Wizards, Children of Hyperborea, River of Tears
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Graveland that we have reviewed:
Graveland - Carpathian Wolves reviewed by Mountainman and quoted 83 / 100
Graveland - Cold Winter Blades reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Graveland - Spears Of Heaven reviewed by Goat and quoted 67 / 100
Graveland - Dawn of Iron Blades reviewed by Daniel and quoted 83 / 100
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