Distributor/label: Hidden Marly Productions
Buy Album: https://paganlandofficial.bandcamp.com/album/from-carpathian-land
Band Website: https://www.facebook.com/PaganlandOfficial/
Andriy “Ruen” Shalay – Keyboards,
Ivan Kulishko – Bass,
Illya “Lycane” Zuykov – Drums,
Dmytro Krutyholova – Vocals,
Vladyslav “Eerie Cold” – Guitars.
2. At The Heart Of Carpathians
3. Black Mountain
4. Belted By Spirit
5. The Gloom
6. From Carpathian Land
Reissues are a fun prospect, aren’t they? A chance for a band to either rework their music with the advancement of knowledge and technology, release older/unheard of material and, ultimately, try garnering new fans. And, of course – who could forget? – drawing in a little more of that sweet, sweet candy (money)? There’s a cynicism about it with more modern releases (often coming a mere twelve months after the initial release), but it’s well worth going into such releases with an open mind. Or as a cash-grab until proven otherwise (you do you, pal). Step up, PAGANLAND’s 2016 opus “From Carpathian Land”.
Initial impressions are palpable – “At The Heart Of The Carpathians” races out of the blocks with surging energy and vibrancy; all galloping rhythms, keyboard flourishes and visceral vocals. It’s the sort of stuff that consistently gets the blood pumping. Like a dependable battle horn prior to the initial charge, it certainly livens up one’s commute into the drudgery that is office life (if only it could sustain oneself through the day – please send help). For an album with heavy leanings to towards the ancient natures of Carpathia, it feels bright and joyous. The melodies that course throughout, like those in “The Gloom”, conjure images of a mighty Pagan celebration of light and beauty that just begs to be heard and participated in.
That lightness may owe a lot to the overall production. Why it would be a surprise to hear once the album opens proper is anyone’s guess, but it has a trebly quality that dispenses with the usual gloom one would expect from the genre. In doing so, it’s run the risk of feeling a little thin on the ground, but the pristine production on the drums gives the album some solid weight behind it. The keys, whilst a touch underwhelming at times across the album, do offer a certain extra levity above the galloping din and ensure a degree of mysticism. They take centre stage with opener “Stozhary” and closer “Chuhayster” – two instrumental curtains that breathe life in and out with grandeur and majesty, even if the latter seems a little superfluous.
Yet, beyond the cavalier nature and ancient majesty, the query is: what’s quite so special about PAGANLAND’s third release? What stands these Ukrainians apart from the myriad of other pagan metal bands? It’s not that what’s on offer isn’t any good – it just doesn’t tickle that naughty spot for memorability. Yes, the melodies are lovely and it’s a good blood-pumper, but it’s not exactly writing large in the book of uniqueness. With this being a release back in those younger, carefree days of 2016, the 2018 edition (exactly the same, aurally, but with the juicy bonus of the band’s 1999 demo “Gods Of Golden Circle”), it still doesn’t barge through the crowd.
The new fans to the band will appreciate the additions, but, as reissues go, it only really amounts to a cash-and-fan-grab. It’s a business at the end of the day, and as far as the band and label are concerned, garnering more is better for all parties, so more power to them. As an album, “From Carpathian Land” – yeah, it’s a decent slice of Pagan metal. It won’t be bothering the genre’s big boys, but it’s not plumbing the depths and scraping the bottom of the barrel. For that, PAGANLAND can be proud of their efforts and of the nature of their heritage.