'Fatherland' is an incredible release from Ancient Rites that leaves their retro black metal days far behind and instead leaps headlong into a perfect synthesis of modern black metal and folk-influenced Viking metal in the style of Bathory. Also gone is the generic blasphemy and Satanism that characterised their previous albums, replaced with a similar sense of national pride to most other folk metal bands, but one in which "nation" stretches to encompass the whole of Europe thanks to a revitalised band line-up hailing from Belgium, Germany, Holland and Finland.
The move away from pure aggression towards epic themes that began in the confused 'Blasfemia Eternal' is drawn to a conclusion here, and the resulting music takes the best elements from Viking and black metal styles without the respective tedium and repetition that generally come with each field. Most songs are still full of hard, roaring guitar riffs from newcomer Jan Yrlund, but frequent elements of folk that extend to full sections and occasionally entire songs make this a more varied and enjoyable release for fans of this sort of melodic black metal, but one that still packs a real punch. There's a nice mix of long and short songs to suit the individual listener's preference, and even a couple like the re-make of ancient demo material 'The Seducer' that will cater for fans of the earlier material, but for the most part the change is drastic and wholly for the best. By retaining all of the power and ferocity of the earlier releases, this would also act as the perfect point of crossover for black metal fans who may be intrigued by the Viking style, but who have previously been put off by the overly lethargic likes of Moonsorrow.
Most of the songs here are instant Viking classics, not as slow or atmospheric as the work pioneered by Bathory in the early nineties and returned to some years later, but still including the same nice touches such as samples of a bustling market and nature, and some brilliant folk-inspired guitar leads to supplement the more authentic folk-inspired folk instruments, which set things off to a great start in the epic opening track. Günther's vocals are back to his old, snarled style with perhaps a little influence from Mayhem's Attila this time round, and as expected from a Viking album there are numerous clean sung sections that sound fantastic, regardless of whether he can actually sing or not - after all, Quorthon never could. 'Mother Europe,' 'Fatherland,' 'Season's Change' and '13th of October 1307' are all excellent fusions of black and Viking metal, and the only reason I don't highlight the second half of the album is because it falls into pretty much the same style and is less instantly mesmerising as a result, not to mention that the earlier songs use up all of Jan's finest guitar ideas. This was a surprising and drastic change of direction for Ancient Rites, but is their first masterpiece and the start of a great career now they've finally found their niche.
2. Mother Europe
5. Season's Change (Solstice)
6. 13th of October 1307
7. Dying in a Moment of Splendour
8. Rise and Fall (Anno Satana)
9. The Seducer
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Mother Europe
5 Season's Change (Solstice)
6 13th Of October 1307
7 Dying In A Moment Of Splendour
8 Rise And Fall (Anno Satana)