Graveland - Spears Of Heaven
No Colours Records
Pagan Metal
7 songs (54:33)
Release year: 2009
Graveland, No Colours Records
Reviewed by Goat

As much of a utter fool as forest-dwelling heathen LARPmaster Rob Darken is, his Graveland project has released some good albums over the years, especially in the early days when it was much more Black Metal than it is now. In recent years, however, the quality has slipped away from the one-man-band almost in direct parallel with the addition of his private ideologies – much of which is kept from the music thankfully, which mostly rambles on about epic battles rather than what those battles want to achieve in terms of the racial makeup of the survivors. Listening to Spears Of Heaven, you can hear what Darken – who handled all instruments including the well-programmed drums and growled vocals – wanted to achieve, a Bathory-influenced epic ride through glorious battlefields. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work... Graveland albums have been growing repetitive for a while, but this is the most obviously so thus far, as there’s little variation between the seven songs here, all above five minutes in length.

The best element of the album is probably the drumming (although it would have been much improved were it actually performed rather than programmed, as ever). It’s slightly louder than the other instruments, even the vocals, and has an interesting Folk/tribal feel influenced by Varg’s work on the early Burzum material. For most of the listen it’s what you’ll be concentrating on, the backing keyboards and guitars fading into ambience as the rhythms are beaten out. The album opens with cracking thunder and synthesized choirs, soon kicking off into a mid-paced drive as vaguely catchy riffs interact with the drums and the backing choirs wail away. It is epic in a subdued manner (Bathory did it a lot better, of course) and the chanted chorus is effective; it even manages to last for over eight minutes without becoming tedious, something not all the tracks on this album can boast of. The following track Walls Of The Red Temple is also strong, chugging riffs and wailing synths soon speeding up and approaching ‘proper’ Black Metal territory, whilst Flame Of Doom makes more usage of the keyboards.

Most of the songs here are pretty similar, Braid Of A Pride Valkyria starting off better than most with an ominous air and interesting riffs, but falling into the sameyness that blights the other songs. The best track is the finale ten-minute-plus piece Return To The Northern Carpathian, which slows the formula right down, taking an effective atmospheric path with ambient melodies mixing with the laid-back drums. Acoustic plucking soon comes in, and it all builds up wonderfully until melancholic riffing and Darken’s weary growls (weary in a good way) declaim over the music. It’s depressive rather than epic, and is a great way to finish the album, yet where Spears Of Heaven ultimately doesn’t succeed is in the songwriting. You have to wait through many average moments to get to the real meat of the listen, and although the basic formula is decent, there isn’t enough variety in it overall to make Spears Of Heaven a great, or even especially good, album. If you’ve followed the band thus far then this is another part of Darken’s musical path, but newcomers to the band would be much better advised to look elsewhere in Graveland’s discography.

Killing Songs :
Spears Of Heaven, Walls Of The Red Temple, Return To The Northern Carpathian
Goat quoted 67 / 100
Other albums by Graveland that we have reviewed:
Graveland - Hour of Ragnarok reviewed by Goat and quoted 70 / 100
Graveland - Carpathian Wolves reviewed by Mountainman and quoted 83 / 100
Graveland - Cold Winter Blades reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Graveland - Dawn of Iron Blades reviewed by Daniel and quoted 83 / 100
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