Graveland Live In Poland On April 29, 2016

by Max Schoenbach

For metalheads who have listened to the studio output from Graveland over the past twenty-five years, experiencing a live version feels odd and uncanny, and definitely “new.” That the band will be struggling with unattainable heights it established for itself is obvious. When seen in Poland on April 29, 2016, other dimensions of the experience revealed themselves as well.

Recent Graveland shares general traits with modern black metal and compositions are slightly rearranged to be less jagged and abrupt than past efforts. It has remained relevant by synthesizing black metal with folk music and classical-derived film soundtracks, creating a forum for the dreamlike intensity of black metal alongside greater complexity in instrumentation and melody.

Live, the challenge is to replicate this new experience without losing the raw intensity of the earlier material. While 1050 Years of Pagan Cult is as unnecessary as Burzum – From the Depths of Darkness and most others from recent fad of rerecording, it serves quite well to represent how Graveland sounds on stage. The choices of modern bands regarding their sound and spiritual condition of metal are not merely coincidence.

In an effort to streamline the music, Rob Darken’s trademark keyboard lines are absent sometimes where they were repeated consistently on the original recordings. It is especially noticeable given that over the years keyboards arose to be Darken’s main voice, and at this moment his art could be effectively comprised entirely of them with guitars and bass providing a backing role. Fortunately, in songs where keyboards serve not so much as much a layer of atmosphere but a crucial element of structure, samples are provided.

That certain types of black metal aren’t proper for live setting represents a certain evolutionary specialization away from the type of music that “just anyone” can create and attend. This realization contributed to the quality of art of Burzum, Darkthrone and Summoning in the second half of the original period of black metal. Apparently, Darken is still aware of this. It seems that bearing in mind all of the important limitations, including the fact that his band is relatively inexperienced as a live act, he chose to give people the opportunity to partake in some more tangible way in idea that is Graveland and listen to solid, albeit more manageable material. That was probably the most sensible option. But one does not attend Graveland’s concert to listen to regular metal.

As a result, despite great atmosphere, proper performance and the fact that Darken is an unexpectedly good frontman, it is hard to get rid of the impression, that the setlist based mainly on basic, raw black metal is somewhat unsatisfying. After all it doesn’t reflect band’s most important inventions and contributions. It is Graveland’s less rigid music that actually has potential to invoke the pagan mysterium and that perhaps should be band’s most ambitious aim here. While some of the solutions taken by Graveland may be temporary and given enough time will develop into something truly sublime, as for now, due to various limitations and compromises they are less able to pull that off.

What also must be taken into account as a negative factor here, is that the music may be performed in less than adequate environment. It seems that such possibility will only increase in the near future, especially if left unchecked. The reality is, that after a few shows in Europe, Darken, undeniably Poland’s most important metal artist, whose music is appreciated by metalheads around the globe, even in his own country, in his home town was forced to play a truly underground stunt. And even then, the location of the gig1 had to be held in secret till the last minute for it to be possible at all.

[1]   The one I’m referring to (29.04.2016) was actually the second Graveland concert in Poland. The first (22.04.2016) was held in a club located in historic and symbolic place – Gdańsk Shipyard. Despite attempts, Leftist activists and NGOs did not manage to get it cancelled and that one proceeded without further hindrances. When it came to the second one, in Wrocław, Leftist journalists intervened by exerting pressure on owners of the club. Ultimately, they resigned from hosting the show and the only other place which band managed to find was technically less appropriate, to say the least.

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12 thoughts on “Graveland Live In Poland On April 29, 2016”

  1. Necronomeconomist says:

    “That certain types of black metal aren’t proper for live setting represents a certain evolutionary specialization away from the type of music that “just anyone” can create and attend.”

    It’s ironic, though: “just anyone” is welcome to buy/steal/listen to those very types.
    In eschewing live performance and become Recording Artists, these niggas are the Beatles of black metal. (I’m not hating, just enjoying the observation.)

    1. I don’t really care whether your assessment of Graveland is hateful or positive, but that’s the gayest observation of their music I have ever heard anywhere and that’s including the bullshit antifa propagates.

  2. D.A.R.G. says:

    My guess: the average “metal fan” does not know how to connect to raw music.

    In this case, the problem is not the band or the music, but the audience.

    The problem is that even the “underground metal fan” is still looking for “the live metal experience”, and so they still want an Iron Maiden / Metallica kind of event.

    1. Max Schoenbach says:

      My impression was that it is more or less their aim at the moment – to provide “live metal experience.” And it is great as such, but that’s not enough. Being deeply connected also to those less universal aspects of Graveland’s music, I would like to see them elevated into the higher role they seem to possess.

    2. Rainer Weikusat says:

      I try to go to a gig every month or couple of months because this means I can do some things I really enjoy doing (like listening to music while headbanging and generally moving quickly in response to changes in the music as they happen) with (at least somewhat) normal people around, ie, without all kinds of “big oafs” feeling compelled to go through their usual array of ‘look at my matewothiness!’-courtship motions: Jump up and down, thrash their arms through the air, engage in other, random display aggression and as-enthusiastic-posing (fat women making a nuisance of themselves because they’re convinced they’re strong for some absurd reason, lebsians & sreeq outacting the publicsexlifeness, “badass grandads” engaging in mosh simulations etc etc etc, all generally convinced that I must be something like a two-headed calf with only half a brain because of my total lack of obvious interest in jumping around some woman while wagging whatever can be wagged …).

      Ideally, the rhythm will give me something to move to while the music is complex and well-played enough to keep my mind engaged with it at the same time. I’m certainly not interested in anything which could be described as »Iron Maiden/ Metallica kind of event«.

      1. Its not complicated: bang your head and smash into your neighbors only if the music compels you to do so. No further discussion required.

        1. Rainer Weikusat says:

          Everything people do is complicated. They’re just too stupid to understand this.

          1. Rainer Weikusat says:

            Less unfriendly addition: Please keep the context in mind. The »Iron Maiden/ Metallica kind of event« is predominantly a ‘(drunk) particle in huge crowd stunned by a bombastic show’-one, the experience of being part of the crowd is in integral part of it, similar to popular sporting events, and this obviously plebeian pastime (»everyone can attend«) drew some scorn here.

            But that’s not everybody’s cup of tea and really rather atypical for gigs.

  3. JN says:

    I saw Graveland live last year and I was surprised how good they were although I would have liked to hear the more epic songs too. Hopefully they’ll play that material later as well. Rob Darken seemed very positive front man and I think the songs from albums like Immortal Pride or Creed of Iron would have better suited the overall atmosphere but I was still happy to hear the earlier classics.

  4. Rainer Weikusat says:

    Assuming some club owner would cancel shows because band members were strongly supsected to be communists, would this be ok? After all, especially in the former Warsaw pact states, a lot of people have very good reasons to consider this political opinion strongly disagreeable, too.

    1. It depends. Is there a violent group coercing him into doing so? If not, his choice. Communist rock is generally pretty boring anyway, with the exception of Napalm Death.

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        This was meant to be a (somewhat rethorical) question targetted at said »violent group«: How’s that if other people objected to something you happen to be in favour of?

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