Graveland - Cold Winter Blades
No Colours Records
Pagan Metal
5 songs (34:52)
Release year: 2010
Graveland, No Colours Records
Reviewed by Goat

Rob Darken! Yes everyone’s favourite Wotanic LARPmeister is back, and latest Graveland EP Cold Winter Blades is a big step up (on glorious wings of eastern pride by the courageous march of the fire-hammer-wielding valkyrie hordes) from the disappointing Spears Of Heaven. I can’t claim to have heard all of Graveland’s post-millenial output, but Cold Winter Blades sounds like a bit of a move sideways for Darken. Despite the title, this is far from an early-Enslavedesque blizzard of ice, but instead is quite warm and organic. The EP opens with Lord Wind-esque epic keyboards, soon joined by percussion and blastbeats (real, rather than programmed? They certainly sound organic) in a raging storm that, what do you know, actually has something of the battlefields about it. It’s big, bold and epic, and presses all the right buttons.

In fact, for once my usual ‘meh, Bathory did it better’ take on later Graveland can’t be used, because this is a different approach – loud drums and vocals, backing keyboards and even more distant guitars, it sounds like the march of a glorious army on their way to a battle. Yes, that’s what Darken’s been doing for years now, but here he does it well, interrupting the Black Metally bits to allow the keyboards and war drums to take the lead, ensuring that this war metal actually sounds battle-worthy. You can tell the songwriting is better overall, the likes of From The Beginning Of Time making their six minute running times fly by, and there’s more variety than usual, too. White-Winged Hussary has a strangely oriental feel to it at times, verging on the ethnic (very open-minded of him) whilst Spear Of Wotan is faster, more frantic, a distant folky melody carrying the track along with it, although it does get rather samey by the time you’re halfway through.

Some things are constant; Darken’s grunty growl barely changes, but he uses it sparingly and lets the keyboards take precedence, so it’s not really a problem. The EP does follow the same formula, generally, and can sound repetitive but there has been a real effort made to keep the listener’s attention, and by the time you’ve reached the rather danceable Dance Of Axes And The Swords you’ll be having fun. As a whole, this isn’t a Moonsorrow beater just yet, pagan metal fans, but it’s certainly enough to make Darken’s Facebook friends sit up and start furiously polishing their weapons, ready for the oncoming war. The rest of us can take comfort from the fact that Cold Winter Blades is an enjoyable listen, although as with any battle re-enactment, there are faults. It’s still possible to see the rubber edges on those supposedly sharp swords – let’s face it, Darken will always be a bit of a prat until he stops making the likes of Immortal look sensible with his fashion choices but Cold Winter Blades proves that his music, at least, is worth taking notice of, and ensures I’ll be checking out new Graveland material when it arises from the depths of ancient iron, drawn in a fire chariot of rune-covered glory enchained by the will of the glorious kingdom of Wotan. Ahem.

Killing Songs :
In The Morning Mist, White-Winged Hussary, Dance Of Axes And The Swords
Goat quoted no quote
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 - 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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