Though overtly NS, Graveland still remains one of Poland’s most recognizable and well-known bands. I sometimes wonder why they continue to have so much notoriety, but you can’t deny that the band has achieved a level of fame that few others have. The music of Graveland has evolved into something of a Folk, Dark Ambient, and Viking Metal hybrid over the years, going from the worship of Emperor and Darkthrone to a more Twilight of the Gods-era Bathory inspired sound. Thunderbolts of the Gods, like many of Rob Darken’s more recent compositions, is fairly passive. Things kind of plod along at a leisurely pace, never getting very aggressive or doing anything exciting. Even with the whole “Viking choir” going in the background, this never achieves an epic feeling, which I’m almost positive that Darken wants. Frankly, the most epic and interesting track on this whole record was the outro, “When Hammer Shines.” It’s darker and more bombastic than all of the others combined. After listening to it, I wished that the whole LP had sounded that way. The opening track started off promising enough, but it quickly became more of what I’ve come to expect from modern Graveland. The songs were overly long (each one ranges between seven to nine minutes in length) and didn’t really go anywhere. I doubt Rob Darken will listen to my recommendations, but this album really needed something to hook the listener in. It needs bombast and epic feeling. It also needs some identity. I listened to this multiple times and one of the things I noticed was the lack of Slavic Folk rhythms in the guitar riffing. That always added a nice hook into Graveland’s music, going back to the era of Thousand Swords and Immortal Pride. Removing that in favor of droning guitars and the occasional keyboards didn’t make the music stronger. The lack of any real hooks, bombast or aggressiveness makes this borderline elevator music. Graveland has produced some great material in the past so I know that Rob Darken is fully capable of writing truly epic songs. He just hasn’t done it lately.
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