Graveland - _Dawn of Iron Blades_
(No Colours Records, 2004)
by: James Montague (8.5 out of 10)
In the fine tradition of recent Graveland records, Rob Darken continues to borrow elements from his last few projects, mix in some of the reignited passion of the early days, and blend them under the auspices of his burgeoning songwriting skills. Far removed from the awkward, clunking tempo switches of _Carpathian Wolves_, the newest incarnation of this Polish pagan metal demagogue displays a compositional aptitude that could also impress the most impartial of listeners, who couldn't give a darn about the spirit of ancient warriors clad in funky plate armour and brandishing obsolete weaponry.

So what can we expect from Graveland on this tenth full-length outing? Best to look at the opening numbers, which contain some of Rob's finest work in some time. "Iron in the Fog" gets the game under way in style, commencing with some calm, understated "nostalgia riffing" from the _Memory and Destiny_ days, before launching into that wonderful rolling style first seen in tracks like "The Dark Battlefied" from _Thousand Swords_. It's the kind of rhythm that evokes the image of a wave of cavaliers sweeping across the hills, obfuscated by the smoke of burning villages. As further resistance is encountered, the guitars take on that urgent, driving nature we saw in the last album, _The Fire of Awakening_. Darken lets rip with some blood curdling battle cries that again take us back to _Thousand Swords_ and its chilling exhortations of revenge.

Moving on to track two, "Semper Fidelix", and the tempo is pushed up a notch as a flurry of activity portends a coming war. This leads us into one of the finest moments in Graveland's esteemed history, as midway through the song a reflective passage -- perhaps a pre-battle prayer to the ancient gods -- yields to an aggressive push, as the attack is launched. The pattern is repeated with a haunting choral accompaniment, like the final scenes of an epic war film, as the enemy starts to fall but the anguished cries and horrific deaths leave their mark on one's soul. An unforgettable moment in an evocative nine-minute masterpiece.

_Dawn of Iron Blades_ does lose some impetus in the middle section, as the above formulas are applied again but without being quite as memorable as the initial efforts. However, in the latter stages of the album a steady, cantering pace keeps the mood alive, producing a pleasing blend of aggression and soul. The final track finishes very strongly, with pounding drums, an ominous roaring riff and one last bloodied cry from our hero. Just a final reminder that the Graveland battle is far from over...


(article published 9/5/2005)

7/27/2007 J Montague 7.5 Graveland - Will Stronger Than Death
1/29/2006 T DePalma 7.5 Graveland - Fire Chariot of Destruction
12/5/2003 J Montague 7 Graveland - Blood of Heroes
11/23/2003 J Montague 9 Graveland - The Fire of Awakening
4/11/2003 M Noll 8 Graveland - Memory and Destiny
3/13/2001 A Wee 7 Graveland - Creed of Iron
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