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The Triumph of Pagan Beliefs (1994)

Veles was yet another Polish black metal band that was affiliated with Rob Darken. Their first demo, The Triumph of Pagan Beliefs, was released in 1994 and is probably the best material that they recorded. This is nothing very original, or even as good as those that they were influenced by, but that is not to say that a demo necessarily has to be unique. This type of music is very much about maintaining the traditions of those that came before, but it is always more meaningful when a band manages to harness that spirit and still manage to have their own identity. 

This is raw black metal in the typical mid-90s style. This demo contains five songs, showing rather dynamic songwriting compared to a lot of bands that were making demos around this time. It begins in a fast-paced and intense manner, before slowing down. "Majesty of War" was the first track that I ever heard by this band, and remained in my head despite not encountering this release again for some years. The main riffs are very memorable and the songwriting is quite solid. "Black Flames Spread Warfare" has a somewhat weak middle section, but the faster riffs and acoustic parts keep things interesting. Of course, the band's Polish roots are easily noticeable, with the same type of odd, mid-paced drumbeats that are present on the old Graveland recordings. "Forgotten Time-Honoured Tradition" is completely built around such rhythms. The connection does not end there, as Rob Darken handled the keyboards for this effort. His presence is quite obvious, though the music is not totally drenched in synth. The vocals have a decent amount of reverb, which adds to the hellish effect.

The sound on here is pretty decent. Naturally, the production is raw, which suits the music very well. The keyboards, when present, are loud enough to accentuate the atmosphere but never drown out the rest. The guitars have a thin, sharp sound with a lot of fuzz, in the old black metal style. The vocals are fairly balanced, never fading away or rising too high as with some demos from this era.

For those that are interested in black metal from this very productive time period, The Triumph of Pagan Beliefs should not disappoint. It is fairly average, compared to everything else that was being released back then, but it holds its own fairly well. Veles should definitely appeal to fans of old Graveland and Infernum, and maybe to those into the LLN bands as well.
(7 Sept. 2013)


The first full-length album from Veles, Night on the Bare Mountain, is a bit of a disappointment. Released in July 1995, this record fails to really live up to the promise shown on the band's previous work, coming across as more tame and bland than most would have expected. It possesses several flaws, and even the performance itself is kind of restrained and boring.

To begin with, this record suffers from very poor production. This is not bad in the sense of being lo-fi and raw, it's just kind of clumsy-sounding. The guitars possess no edge, whatsoever. This, alone, renders the recording flat and non-threatening. The different guitar tracks are quite uneven, as well. The vocals are a bit high in the mix, especially considering how weak the rest is. The clean guitar passages are done well enough, not sounding awkward or out of place, as is sometimes the case.

One need look no further than the re-recorded version of "Majesty of War" to realize that this band lost its edge. Not only is the sound softer than on The Triumph of Pagan Beliefs, but the execution is less-inspired and has no feeling behind it. Such is the case with much of the rest of this material. The songwriting is pretty generic, sounding like a mixture of mediocre ideas taken from various better-known bands. "My Bloodthirst (The Horrorstorm)" has its moments, but any potential that this may have had was ruined by the lousy production, which completely neuters the whole album. In some cases, one guitar track is so far in the background that the melodies are unable to really have any effect. If you listen close, it becomes apparent that these cold tremolo riffs would actually add a bit to the atmosphere. Instead, we get rather pointless synth that fails to do what traditional instruments should have been able to accomplish. Even the vocalist is sub-par, sounding as if his voice is going to give out at any second.

Night on the Bare Mountain is fairly average, even by 1995 standards, and it lacks the intensity of its predecessor. Production-wise, it suffers the same fate as Graveland's Thousand Swords, sounding very dull and weak. Perhaps, better songwriting would have been able to overcome this setback, but such is not the case with the debut L.P. from Veles. This is not a terrible album, but it could have been much better. It's worth checking out, maybe, but don't expect anything along the lines of The Celtic Winter.
(20 Sept. 2013)

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