While Ukraine’s Paganland first incarnated as early as 1997, it took the collective many years to show it really meant business. At the time of their initial disbandment in 2007, the band had but a single demo, 1999’s Gods of Golden Circle, to show for their time together. Some years later, the band reunited and marked their territory with the full-length debut, Wind of Freedom, in 2013. The album proved a hidden gem, invoking Ukraine’s wealthy black and folk metal traditions to create an engaging melange of melodic melodrama. Two years after this surprising acte de présence, Paganland are set to release their second full-length. Titled Fatherland, this new set not only proves that the band is here to stay, but also that they’ve little intention of repeating themselves.
On their new album, Paganland retain their sound as revealed on Wind of Freedom, but do not shun expanding it for the better. As on the debut, melodically versatile songs jump from one mood into another without ever seeming bipolar. They’re driven forward by a well-balanced mix of clean and harsh vocals, both delivered with the utmost passion. Still, Fatherland sees these musicians offer harder, faster black metal to contrast the more pronounced, bombastic folk metal they bring to the table. In doing so, they broaden the sonic scope of their music, preventing the scarce moments of monotony on their debut album from occurring at all this time around. The omnipresent keyboard weaves the sound together, taming the most rapid riffs while also bestowing the required sense of grandeur upon the folk-fueled chants that frequently bring down the pace.
Though the equilibrium that Paganland maintain throughout their music is impressive in itself, Fatherland‘s value becomes most apparent when seen in the light of Eastern European metal/rock traditions. A breeding ground for the most bizarre experiments, navigating music emerging from Ukraine, Belarus or Russia can be an exciting but daunting task. EDM-influenced black metal? It exists. Industrial folk? Check. A black metal cover of “Nights in White Satin”? They went there. Russian-Orthodox post-punk? Old news. Black/folk metal artists spitting rhymes like rappers? Not even rare. After dealing with all this mindblowing material, it can be refreshing to behold a band that willingly stays on the trodden part of classic, borderline cheesy Ukrainian black/folk metal anno 2015.
With Fatherland, Paganland produce a flavor of metal that was commonplace in the late nineties, and they deliver it with the style and skill needed to make it sound nostalgic rather than archaic. As a result, their sound encompasses two decades worth of Ukrainian black/folk metal tradition, meaning that it is a fine introduction for those who long to get into Eastern-European metal, but don’t quite know where to start. While the album is thus not revolutionary against the background of the Ukrainian scene at large, Fatherland is rougher, braver and more pronounced than anything Paganland had undertaken up until this point, proving definitively that the decision to revive the project was a wise one.