Eastern Europe seems to swarm with Slavic Pagan Metal acts, from renowned bands such as Drudkh to more obscure settings trying to fight their way through. Paganland is of the latter kind, hailing from Ukraine, taking pride in their ancestry and delivering it into songs from lands of freedom and epic melodies. Founded in 1997 as a studio project they have quite a history, being split up between 2005-2011, not until now delivering their full-length debut Wind of Freedom, released by Svarga Music. This Ukrainian label is focused solely on native Pagan, Black and Folk metal acts, with names such as Munruthel in their keeping. Handling genres where such may be of importance to the listener, they state clearly they are not presenting any religious acts.
Paganland is carried by a love for nature, drawing inspiration from their native land itself, with dense forests and the Carpathian’s sharp teeth against the sky. The music is driven by melodies hailing from folk tunes, weaved together with pervasive metal elements. The vocalist, known only as Volodymyr, has a resemblance to Vintersorg or Borknagar, keeping a voice just within tune, but penetrating and proud like a warrior shouting from a mountain slope. This fits well, of course, since Wind of Freedom is a proud record, to say the least. The Ukrainian lyrics are perhaps not understood, but this theme is so piercing that one has to be deaf not to hear it. As Pagan metal often is, it is a bit predictable, from the instrumental opening “Wheel of Eternity” to the little singing girl in the intro on “Podolyanka”. But Paganland delivers it in high quality, something not always present in similar recordings. Songs such as “Power of Spirit”, starting from the in the genre classic battle sounds, folding out a melody both stirring and epic, wakens a longing to see these guys live, sinking into their music from a crowd in trance. The title track itself had the hairs on my neck standing as it ends the record with some last minutes peaking in grand emotion.
Wind of Freedom is a record that is hard to grade.There is no doubt the forty minute ride is invigorating, in a pace as wild as a strong wind coming in from the Black Sea. The folklore feeling is, for me, something always captivating, and here it is served warm, in rich amounts. Fans of Pagan metal afar or from Ukraine should embrace and endorse this. But to me, Paganland leaves some things to wish for when it comes to innovation. It just feels a bit too safe, not enough out there, in a scene where many bands deliver the same kind of music, with better singers and more distinct sound, making them the great names they are; Eluveitie, Finntroll, Arkona, and so on. But these are acts that have been going for years, and keeping in mind that Wind of Freedom is something like the first chapter in the tale of Paganland, it stands clear that within this band lingers a capability to grow, like heathen rebels gathering when the drums call, rising like a relentless force to bring freedom back where it has always been part of the wind itself.
01) Wheel of Eternity (Intro)
02) Shadows of the Past
03) Power of Spirit
06) Night Forest
07) Fogs and Twilights
08) Wind of Freedom