UNHOLY PAGAN FIRE 18th issue
It's finally here!
Including interview with Graveland about album "Immortal Pride"
Fragment of interview:
It’s hard to imagine the Eastern European extreme scene without mentioning this man. In the early 90's the GRAVELAND project practically formed the Polish black metal movement, becoming a direct successor of Bathory in their homeland. This man’s music has always been unique and far from mass perception, and it’s primarily because Robert "Darken" Fudali didn't follow Vader, Behemoth and KAT, but preferred his own, entirely non-commercial path, meeting his personal needs as honestly as possible. While sending my questions to the musician (a real conversation couldn’t happen because of the language barrier - it wouldn't work even in English), I couldn't have imagined HOW much my interlocutor would open up to us. The final chord of the summer was working on this truly gigantic interview, which has become for me, without a doubt, the centerpiece of the entire issue (and the largest interview in the history of DarkCity magazine). Everything the leading western metal media couldn't publish is to find here. I'd like to express my deepest gratitude to Rob's wife Olga Fudali (Lord Wind, Летеница), who has played the key role in bringing his ideas to us, namely by translating this enormous text heap from Polish into Russian. It’s like a book for the price of a magazine!
Rob, as for the Graveland early period, what has now become entirely irrelevant to you? And what has remained important and immutable even to this day?
"I can safely say that I don't depend on black metal anymore. Even performing old songs at gigs, I don't feel a close connection to them. Of course, I try to do my best to make the fans happy. After all, they always wait so long to see Graveland live. Most of them grew up on our old songs, so we have to play them. But personally I feel better when I play new songs, they are closer to my pagan spirit. At such moments I get filled with an absolutely different energy, as I feel like a warrior on stage, a leader of a wolfish legion marching in the first line of a battle, rushing into fight, with my shining armor and a frightening roar. My fierce voice warms up my comrades-in-arms before the battle. The stage is a battlefield for me, the floor trembles with rolling chariots and a clatter of horse hooves. Black Metal has nowadays become very fashionable and a lot of people asked me to go on working in that genre. With this kind of music, it would be much easier to play gigs with Graveland all over the world. I don't need it and I don't want to be a part of something that is completely opposite to me. The Pagan belief and the value system that is close to me are very far from those dark ideas. It’s been much time since I changed and I go my own way, which influences and characterizes the style of the band. I'm surprised that a lot of people still associate Graveland with black metal. I am not going to lie to them - if I continued to deal with black metal, I would feel like a poser. Money has never been my priority. I have no desire to pretend to be just another black metal musician. I believe in the path I'm following, even if it's not easy, but there are a lot of people out there who don't want anyone to ever find out about the way I've chosen. That's why I'm very happy to be interviewed by your magazine.”
- What direction did you go musically on 'Hour Of Ragnarok' and what ideas formed this album?
"It's very simple. I wanted to build the album on what fans have always appreciated about Graveland. Looking for ideas for riffs, I went back to works like 'Thousand Swords' (1995) and 'Creed Of Iron' (2000). Some of the fresh compositions were very reminiscent of 'Thousand Swords', so I didn’t include them to the final track list, I treated them as exercises. Inspired by the old albums, I started composing new songs, but I noticed that my playing style had changed. Although I wish I could play as simply as I did back then, Graveland music has already taken on a new form - like on 'Thunderbolts Of The Gods'. It depends on how I program and tune the drums, what tempos and rhythms I use. If the new album had been composed with a drummer from the very beginning, it would probably look different. But the pandemic closed the borders for us, and I had to come up with the drums myself and send them to Ahrin later on. He made adjustments, added variety and beautiful details that I wouldn't have thought of. The arrangements, however, didn't change. When Ahrin was ready to record the drums in the studio, he had to wait a little longer until the Italian government lifted the Covid restrictions. He couldn't leave the house or even go to work. I'm glad that it's over now and that the album is finally coming out. It sums up everything Graveland has done in the past years, but also contains a lot of fresh ideas, full of “berserk” energy. Pagan and Epic! When we played the song 'Possessed By Steel' from the album 'Thunderbolts Of The Gods' live, I saw how lively people reacted to such music. That's probably the direction I'll keep going in the future.”
- By the way, how would you explain the difference between "pagan" and "heathen"?
"In Poland, there has been a long-standing discussion on these concepts. Among other things, I think there should be mentioned the departure from the concept of "paganism" (from the Polish word "poganstwo"). In monotheistic religions this word means something negative, it is an invective, i.e. an insult. Christians used to call anything they disagreed with or considered to be Satan's domain as paganism. To me, however, the concept once used to have a different meaning, was associated with a revolution against Christianity. As an avid opponent of Christians, I was fascinated by Satanism and anything that seemed dark and aroused fear among the bishops. As we know, Christianity fought Satanism and paganism, converting former Europeans to the new faith with fire and sword. Countless numbers of people who had remained faithful to the magnificent rich culture and deep religious traditions were exterminated. Christianity also tried to tie Paganism to Satanism, using images of corresponding supernatural beings; as a result, the things that served for our ancestors as a model of behavior and a model of spiritual ethics began to be interpreted very differently. People started to speak of the complete degradation and primitiveness of our real, ancient beliefs. Everything is thrown into the same bag with Satan and dubbed evil – therefore, the word "paganism" has become known all over the world. Today, if I use the term, it is only to explain to ordinary people which faith I belong to. This word is much more popular than "heathen", so any metal head on any continent will generally understand what the discussion is about. In Poland we define pagan "poganina" as "rodzimowierca", and we call pagan faith "rodzimowierstwo". But among people versed in the subject, we use the term "heathen". This word is used more and more often by nearly all groups connected with ancient traditions. It has become recognizable and popular among archaeological and historical reenactors and is slowly seeping into the mainstream media. I have also heard the word from some politicians.”
- What does the Lord Wind project mean to you and what kind of outlet do you find in it? It seems not only to be a creative outlet, but also a break from Graveland?
"Listening to a lot of old and folk music motivated me to try my hand at this genre. Lord Wind first album 'Forgotten Songs' was still far from folklore ideals, and at first the project was associated with neo-folk and even darkwave. As I’ve mentioned before, it wasn't considered folk until the last - the sixth - album 'The Forest Is My Kingdom' with which I achieved what I had always wanted to play in Lord Wind. This was only possible due to new musicians joining us, including my wife Olya, who took on the role of a lead vocalist. The album consists of our own songs inspired by early medieval music and folklore. It's typical pagan-folk played on live instruments. In my opinion, it turned out interesting and unique. Now we are preparing the next record, which is closer to Scandinavian climate. We want to use more authentic instruments. Some of them we are still learning to play. The studio session should start this autumn. There are a lot of new songs, with many of them we are at early stages of work, but we will finish them adding some magic colors and then we will give them a proper adaptation as well. We want to record this album without hurry but with attention to detail, to make it even better than the previous one".
- Five years ago, if I'm not mistaken, Graveland gave its first live concerts in its history. Can you recall what feelings you had when you took the project on stage for the first time in a quarter of a century? And why hadn’t you dared to do it before?
"In the years when Poland was governed by such political structures as Platforma Obywatelska (Civic Platform), I didn't have a chance to play any concerts. When the conservative party “Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc” (“Law and Justice”) had won, we felt the wind of freedom for a while. Many then decided that our conservative views would allow Graveland to perform without restrictions. That freedom was barely enough for 4 concerts in Poland. The local censorship organizations and foundations generally consisted of people who had been members of Antifa or just had left-wing views. They really didn't like the warmth Graveland was welcomed with and took measures to stop it. So it's extremely difficult to organize something back home. But a few sets in Poland and abroad left unforgettable impressions. The band has a lot of fans all over the world and meeting them gave me a huge dose of energy. I expected that Graveland would be well received at the concerts, but in the close contact with the audience I noticed some things that surprised me a lot. I saw how much these people needed me and Graveland's music. They knew everything about me, knew my thoughts, knew how I would answer the questions they asked. The pagan ideals touted by the pagan scene influenced even the fans in South America to the point that they, like us, began to draw spiritual strength from the beliefs of their true ancestors. In Ecuador, we were invited into the jungle to show the ritual sites. If we had the opportunity to stay longer in that country, we would definitely have gone with them. I have to be honest - I liked it best in those countries, where it was wild and primitive. These people are sincere and simple, they don’t hesitate to say what comes into their head. Residents of Western Europe, who were brainwashed and forced to carry out leftist education, lose out greatly in comparison to them. If we get a chance, we'll try to go back to South America and play a lot more gigs there.
- As for the current moment, what do you really struggle with in your life?
"Little by little, I am fighting against coming old age, and most importantly, I try not to forget about physical exercise. Mostly, my current sport is cycling. I also try to spend more time in nature, walk in the mountains, forests, where I can find roads without other travelers. Nature calms me down, it recharges me with life energy which in turn stimulates me to constantly compose music. I try to keep my body in good shape and in a healthy state, I prefer healthy food, I don’t take any stimulants. I avoid toxic people, as well as those who infect others with anxiety, fear and hatred. These are challenging times, but you just have to live to have at least some control over it all. We need to take care of our health, physical, mental and spiritual. These are the basics that prolong our lives. I call such way of life "discipline of steel". I’m still eager for making music, I want to learn something new all the time, to improve myself. For example, I want to learn singing clear vocals properly. Luckily, my Russian wife Olya is able to teach me (laughs). She used to sing in Russian folk-metal bands and in a theater choir, she has a talent. Singing and playing instruments, which is something new to me, are the things that also prolong my life and keep me sensible and conscious. I still consider myself a musician who is just learning to play, and I still have a long road to mastery in front of me. The motivation that makes me working on myself will keep me on a musical adventure for many, many more years to come. This is my personal battlefield where I fight the doubts and the demon of old age.”
Anton “Sirius” KOLTSOV.
English translation by Yana VOROBIEVA.
Interview with Graveland in first issue of
Shades of Darkness Magazine #1
The longest interview at 11 pages!
The first issue of Shades of Darkness in English can be
purchased for pre-order by clicking on the link below
Part of an interview with Graveland taken from first issue of Shades of Darkness Magazine
No listener of black or pagan metal needs to be introduced to this character - the charismatic leader of Graveland, always following his path, occupies one of the leading places in the pantheon of Polish legends, and the band's fame is spreading all over the world. Despite, or maybe just by avoiding media attention, he made a name for himself by creating many albums that are considered to be cult classics of the genre. This year, Graveland's latest work entitled "Hour of Ragnarok" will be released. Before we can listen to it, let's hear what the creator has to say about this and many more interesting topics. Before you is an interview with the man, the myth, the legend - Rob Darken!
Interview by Robert Górecki & Weland
Robert: You're currently getting ready to release Hour of Ragnarok. What prompted you to release this disc under the colours of several different labels, depending on the version?
Darken: People who want to listen to Graveland keep coming. The band's music and merch are sold mainly by small labels that I would describe as the modern underground. However, it is not a large distribution. Fortunately, there are more fans and many of them would just like to buy a CD at a festival or in some local store. When there is no original merch, bootleggers start to show up! Graveland is already too famous for it to exist underground. That's why I had to organize something on a larger scale. However, I couldn't count on the help of large companies, which as a matter of fact, have become unbearably politically correct and they avoid Graveland like vampires avoid holy water.
"Hour of Ragnarok" is an album with 7 new songs plus "River of Tears" bonus. Certainly many fans will want to buy a vinyl or CD album. So a few spread all over the world will be able to get orders more easily than one label in Europe would. That's why the new album will be released on several labels at the same time. I expect it will have a stronger presence and the prices will be better in that way. In Poland, the album will be available at Mara Productions, which also publishes interesting Graveland clothes.
R: As the first preview of the new album you released a refreshed version of "Possessed by Steel" from "Thunderbolts of Gods" a year ago. Why this track and why didn't it appear on the "Hour of Ragnarok" track list?
Darken: This song in the new arrangement sounds much better than the one on the album. Fans received it well at concerts. I wanted to have this track well recorded in this version, especially as it gained dynamics and brutality in the new arrangement. The occasion for this was to test the recording studio in Italy, Rocketbuster Studio, recommended to me by Ahrin (new drummer from Graveland). Ahrin has recorded in this studio many times and managed to negotiate a very good price. We recorded the drums for "Possessed by Steel'', and I did the mixing of the whole song myself. We did all this remotely, only via the Internet. I was pleased with the result of this song and knew that this way we could make the whole album. In 2020, due to the epidemic, recording conditions were not easy. "Possessed by Steel '' convinced me to try to make the whole album in this way. There was no room for him on the new album as we added "River of Tears'' as a bonus. "Possessed by Steel '' will be on a split album with some Finnish band! We already have three new songs ready for this split, and the fourth will be "Possessed by Steel''. Split should be ready for release in fall 2021.
R: In "The Wolf of Twilight" you hear a lot of folk themes similar to the Nokturnal Mortum style. Was it influenced by your collaboration on "The Spirit Never Dies"?
Darken: When making music for "Hour of Ragnarok '', I wanted to go back to the roots of Graveland, to the albums our fans like the most, "Thousand Swords" and "Creed of Iron". This folk style of mine is a remnant of what I created on "Thousand Swords". This is a different type of folk than the one we can hear on Nokturnal Mortum albums. I drew my folk inspirations from early, medieval music, and those that we hear in the music of Nokturnal Mortum are ethnic and come from folk music. Nevertheless, it may seem similar, although someone who knows folk music will recognize the sources.
Another difference between Graveland and Nokturnal Mortum is the selection of folk instruments used on the albums. Noctrurnal Mortum uses ethnic instruments such as cymbals, pipes, probably also Ukrainian domras and many others whose names I do not remember.
I used only symphonic instruments on the album "Hour of Ragnarok''. This symphonic setting includes such instruments as: oboe, clarinet, basson, piccolo, tuba, double bass, symphonic trumpets of the French horn type, violas and cellos. I wrote separate tracks for all these instruments. It took me a lot of time, I think I was quietly dealing with the keyboard itself for half a year. It made me tired, sometimes it felt like a brainwash. I think that I could improve these songs, but you can't do it forever. Inferna Profundus Records, which releases the album on vinyl, began to exert a painstaking pressure. It forced me to end this fun and definitely finish working on the album. All songs on the album have such a symphonic setting as "The Wolf of Twilight", of course there are also choir parts, intros and my singing attempts, let's say with a normal vocal!
W: The last question concerns the war waged by black metal. Graveland itself is strongly rooted in the themes of combat, battles, wars, so the question: What are you fighting with? With the world? With your own weaknesses? With God? And finally, will this war come to an end and with it the history of the legendary Graveland?
Darken: I think it is a commitment to certain values that cannot be questioned because they are essential to our survival! Back then I didn't understand these things, I was dominated by the self-destructive ideologies of black metal origin! I didn't think about the future. It didn't matter what happened next, what mattered was destruction, evil in its true medieval incarnation! The music I listened to could fuel this perversion! Early albums by Bathory, but also other dark works, such as the albums Possessed, Sarcofago, Slaughter, Bulldozer, Venom! At one point in my life, I was only looking for darkness and darkness in metal music! It was food for my soul! There was also room for bands such as Manowar, Manilla Road. When Bathory changed his style to Viking metal, I was shocked, but also changed.
This is the power of metal music that can be envied by all other genres of music.
There are still many metal fans around the world feeling it and following it! For the truth, for the highest values valued by our ancestors and fathers. They are still sung in metal music!
Bathory, Manowar and Manilla Road had a huge impact on me. I wanted to be like them.
They were faithful to their music, they did not change until the very end. They remained true to their style and image! It is a certain path for artists that I am trying to follow. The sword, then, will only be put aside after I die.
Much more you can read in :
The first issue of Shades of Darkness in English can be purchased for pre-order by clicking on the link below
Interview with Graveland in first issue of Shades of Darkness Magazine
Graveland is a legend of Polish black metal that has remained in the underground for years, resisting the media frenzy and popularity
Darken, the often controversial founder of Graveland, has over the years released albums that cannot be denied the cult status: "Thousand Swords", "Carpathian Wolves", or "Creed of Iron" are just a fraction of the band's impressive discography.
The longest interview at 11 pages, it not only touches on the band's new album "Hour of Ragnarok" but also delves into the band's history and evolution over the years. Additionally, the first issue of Shades of Darkness Magazine will feature an extensive pre-release review of the new Graveland album, which will be the first public assessment of Darken's new work.
The first issue of Shades of Darkness in English can be purchased for pre-order by clicking on the link below