Rerecording old material is always a dangerous practice, especially when the original recording is considered a classic. For example, Varg Vikernes has received nothing but (deserved) grief for his mediocre rerecording of tracks from the first three Burzum releases and especially for his absurd claim that the rerecording “fixes” the “problems” of the original (you know, the very “problems” that made the songs so adored in the first place). In a similar vein, Rob Darken was playing with fire when he decided to rerecord two tracks from his dark classic of primitive black metal, Carpathian Wolves. Surprisingly, that is exactly what Rob pulls off on Implaer's Wolves: he manages to maintain the dark and evil spirit of the original, yet present it in an entirely new way.
The two tracks that are receiving a makeover are “Impaler of Wallachia” and “In the Northern Carpathians.” The original recordings are raw, malicious and pitch black. The performance is extremely intense, with most of the atmosphere emerging from the sheer viciousness of the guitar and drums, plus the hatefulness of Rob’s vile howls. These tracks are about as evil sounding as it gets.
Impaler’s Wolves is equally evil, but in a totally different way. While the original recording attacks, the rerecording overwhelms. This is a big and full recording that allows the dark melodies to totally consume the listener. The riffs are just huge and crushing. The drums are heavy and bass driven, and shake the earth with every beat. The massive keys push the music into an absolutely hellish apex.
“Impaler of Wallachia” is simply astounding. This is a twelve minute exhibition of pure, unrelenting, dark power. The riffs are so dark and heavy and the drums are so dominating that when the onslaught of chimes and bells kick in, it feels as if Hell is bursting through the surface of the earth’s crust and the Apocalypse has begun. Robs vocals are really creepy, as he employs some weird, nasal singing in addition to his dry growl. As excellent as the original recording is, this second take is even better. This is one of Graveland’s best tracks and stands as a perfect merger of the symphonic tenancies of his later work and the pure darkness of his early work.
The rerecording of “In the Northern Carpathians” isn’t quite as astounding, but is still stellar. The keys create a chilling atmosphere and bring out a mournful and somber dimension of the composition that is easy to overlook in the original recording. Overall, I prefer the sheer violence of the original version of this song, but this second take does highlight some interesting aspects of the piece.
A rerecording of a classic track shouldn’t try and “fix” the original, but rather should provide a new angle from which different aspects of the composition can be highlighted. That’s exactly what Impaler’s Wolves achieves. This EP is must be heard by anyone who is enjoys the darker side of Graveland.