Paganland – Wind of Freedom

Release Date: March 4, 2013
Label: Svarga Music

By Sam
How often does a band founded in 1997 rise from the ashes of a years-long hiatus to release its first-ever full-length album? It’s certainly rare. And in the unusual cases when it does occur, it’s fair to say that listeners can generally expect to be presented with a very different version of the band they once knew. However, Ukrainian pagan metallers Paganland might be an exception to this rule. Granted, Paganland’s keyboardist Andriy Shalay is the only remaining member of the original lineup, but it’s clear that with Wind of Freedom, he has tried to maintain the spirit of the band’s first incarnation, while still giving the sound a thorough spit and polish.

To sum up the new Paganland in one sentence: It’s like Arkona and Heidevolk had a Ukrainian baby. The vocals are the first aspect that really stood out for me. Like Arkona and Heidevolk, Paganland delivers a near-flawless mix of growls and clean male harmonies that impressed me on first listen – which, to be frank, is no mean feat, as I’m very picky about my vocals! The lyrics are entirely in Ukrainian, but according to the band’s website, the lyrical themes center on the pagan metal standards of nature, cultural heritage, and the like. The samples the band uses, too, are typical for the genre: babbling brooks, howling wind, battle cries, footsteps crunching in the snow…it’s all there. And if you combine all of that with driving guitars, machine-gun drumming, and eastern-flavored keyboard melodies, you’ve got a recipe for a pretty solid pagan metal album.

And that’s what Wind of Freedom is: solid. The songs are catchy and well-produced, and they’ll inspire listeners to chant along – “Chornohora,” “Podolyanka,” and “Night Forest” were my personal favorites. However, the album definitely treads familiar ground. If you’re a long-time folk or pagan metal listener, you might find that Wind of Freedom tends to blend in pretty seamlessly with a lot of other bands on your usual playlist; whether that’s a negative or a positive is up to the listener to decide. For me, the truly fantastic vocals were enough to warrant multiple playthroughs; I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Paganland’s future releases. Let’s hope that we won’t have to wait another fifteen years for their sophomore effort!

Rating: 7.5/10
01. Wheel of Eternity (intro)
02. Shadows of the Past
03. Power of Spirit
04. Chornohora
05. Podolyanka
06. Night Forest
07. Fogs and Twilights
08. Wind of Freedom