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Of Ages

Of Ages

by Ragnarok

Band Members:

Deörþ - Bass / Vocals
Stenfält - Guitar

Ragnarok is a folk black metal band from the UK who's history is plagued by line-up problems and ultimately a failed record company. The CD I have for review today is a compilation of all their demos, 'Of Ages' - some of which never made it to a full CD. Much of this bands works have been lost over time. This album was really made for the fans and collectors. I can't recall ever hearing this band back in the day though I have heard the band name before. I was following Bathory back then but it turns out Ragnarok were actually the forefathers of what we now know today as Viking Metal. Please check out the links below this review to find out more about the history of this band.

 

Sunset Over Middle-Earth (Intro) / Across The Sea To Niflheim 1991 - A slow atmospheric entrance along with a spoken, poetic voice over introduces us to the album. As the music enters, we are met by a bass guitar. The drums, guitar and vocals soon follow. The overall sound is quite muffled just as all the black metal greats started out. This is mainly comprised of black metal vocals so they are not decipherable, but there are cleanly sung parts where you can understand the lyrics for the most part. The music itself is quite scattered between intense metal portions and melodic, quiet parts. It's a fairly long track with a duration of 06:11. I didn't find it to flow very well so I found it quite hard to get into. I can hear what they are trying to achieve but I feel it required more work in order to perfect the sound.


Legion Of Death 1991 - Here we have what is the 1991 version of the track. The sound continues to relay that muffled aspect. The beat is fairly moderate in pace but it is catchy. The guitar parts create a slight groove for the listener which is related more toward the folk side of things. The vocals are deathly and a tad clearer, but not quite decipherable. Again, there are spoken moments but I still can't quite decipher it all. There are some good guitar leads in here. It's a fairly good track but I feel it needs perfecting.


Thunderhammer 1991- This next track starts out with a rumbling of thunder and some bass guitar. It's not until about 01:30 when the music truly begins. The pace is fast, the vocals are blackened and the overall sound is dark and muddy. The vocals are very rough and the sound engineering in general is quite terrible. But in saying that, sometimes this type of thing is good to listen to - more so if you are from that time period of cassettes and vinyl as I am. It even states on the CD sleeve, "Recorded on what was little more than a glorified karaoke machine". That says it all really.


Samhain 1991 - This next muddy track is very raw with the raspy vocals and tinny drums and distorted guitar. It's got a good groove to it and the beat is fairly moderate, but is just enough to be catchy. There's some nice double kick in here but it's not very clear due to the recording. These kinds of recordings were great samplers really. I've always felt they were simply made to give you a taste of a band you should of been getting off your butt to go see live and support so that maybe then they could afford to get a decent recording. The folk part becomes more prominent at the end of the track. I would've liked to hear a more 'up to date' recording of this music. For what it is though, it's pretty good and I would've made the effort to go see them play.


Rememberance Of Innocence 1991 - The tempo has dropped dramatically and fallen into a slow, sombre state. It sounds much like a lovelorn melody though I can't quite decipher all the lyrics through the muddiness. It's a fairly short track at 03:35. There's an added sound effect which is what I think is the ocean but it also sounds like it could be passing cars. The final words to the song are "I remember". So I guess this is more of a melodic memoir.


Pertemhru 1991 - Here we have the second shortest track on the album at 03:26. This one sounds like a homemade demo more than anything. The drums in this are clearer as is the guitar but the vocals remain obscured. At 02:37 the tempo picks up and strangely the vocals become more prominent whilst the guitar is dropped back. It takes a few listens to be able to concentrate on the overall music in order to get past the bad sound mix. The result is that of a friend's garage band - where everyone goes to hang out with and drink to.


Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi 1994 - This one is quite amusing. It is based on the operatic piece some may know as 'O Fortuna'. It would surely have the upper class's skin crawling. It is a metal rendition of the works with part blackened vocals and all. Mostly the vocals are clean in an attempt at it operatically, somewhat. It's a good piss-take if that's what it is they set out to achieve. Though I am more prone to believe they have simply recreated the piece out of a respect for it.


Sons Of Odin 1995 - This next one is fairly long at 06:14. It starts out quite heavy and well paced. There is a folk essence to the track which makes it catchy. The recordings seem to be getting a tad better in sound quality. This one gives the listener a better idea of the style they are trying to achieve as there is much more clarity on their efforts. I still find it to be more of a sampler and one which tells me they are worth seeing live.


Vampyra (Spectral Maiden) 1991 - It sounds like they may have scored a four track for this song as the music is much clearer. The vocals could have been turned up a little but I remember how hard it can be recording directly to a four track and watching the sound level as you go (if this is in fact what this was recorded on). With the guitar in here being the clearest yet, you can finally enjoy what it has to offer and there are some nice lead parts. The bass has always been noticeable but now it is nowhere near as muddy so you can appreciate it more. Overall, it's a good effort.


Legion Of Death 1987 - It sounds like we are back to the sludge for this one and well, the last time we heard this it was the 1991 version. The music sounds fairly good... in concept. If only there were the quality and perfection allowed to match. This seems to be one of their better ones thus far and it has a good beat to it. It sounds even better than the '91 version which is odd.

River Of Life 1992 - Time warp to '92 and again I must try to focus on the overall concept since the recording is so poorly mixed. This track is very folky. As I listen to it, I can think of all the extra percussion instruments I would have used for it. It's quite sad knowing these guys never really had a chance at perfecting their art. Their concepts were brilliant and I would love to hear someone recreate it and master it today.


Ride Of The Valkyries / Of Gods And Nords (outro) 1991 - Here we have the longest track on the album at 11:08. It starts out with an extended guitar melody with the drums entering the track at around 01:30. It is now the heavy aspect takes flight. The vocals start out sounding very goth like. At 03:40 the pace picks up and the vocals become raspy and blackened. Musically, it is sounding very punk like with this pace and drum style. The structure of this track is slightly diverse as it alters the path from goth to punk in style with it all coated in metal. It is a little bit weird with the faster paced lead guitar over it in this one part, but I do feel a lot of their work required perfecting in general. The end of this track is spoken.

"Dragonships appear on horizon, As the sky-jewel rises in the east, The coastguard on the hill watching, Silence broke by gold-horned voice released, In mead-hall great warriors sleeping,  Now dream-world is shattered by the cry, Mail shirts and golden helms now donned, Their spiral blades blood-lust satisfy..."


Heart Of Steel 1999 - This is the final track on the album and it starts out light and melodic. It has a gentle attribute even though it seems to be about battling. At 02:01 it takes on a sudden structural shift and become quite sinister and deathly. The music remains slowed, atmospheric and powerful. It does seem to be a most honourable track - an ode to the warriors. It is a reasonably good recording too, making this a good song to end the album on.


In essence, I think this an interesting CD. It is compiled of many demo tracks making this perfect for avid fans and metal historians. The CD I received was given to me by Aurora Australis Records. It is the in-store version and the inserts seem to be made with recycled material. The cover bears a picture of a lone warrior upon a horse within a forest. Inside the sleeve is an informative tale of the band and the creation of this album. There are also lyrics to one song which is comprised of three parts. (which is why I've only quoted this). On the inner back sleeve Is a full, numbered track listing and recording information. On the back is contact information and other available album covers. On the very back of the CD insert is a picture of a CD with the track titles spread across quarters of the CD. On the opposite side is a picture of Deörþ. On the CD itself is the logo and numbered track listing. I guess the thing you want to know is whether or not this is worth the purchase. Well, as a collector or fan, I would say yes. But if you've not heard them before, then I suggest you look them up on the links below and get yourself a clean copy first. You don't want to be put off by poor sound quality. As I have noted all ready, I think this band has/had much potential and I would love to hear a clean version of it all. Regardless, if they were to play live near me, I'd make the effort to go see and support them as this album has some gems.

Ragnarok

LINKS

Aurora Australis Website

Ragnarok Facebook

Ragnarok Reverbnation

Ragnarok eCard

 

Review by Déa di Morté © 10 January 2012
All pictures courtesy of Ragnarok and Aurora Australis