Thursday, February 2, 2023

Scheitan - Travelling in Ancient Times (1996)

Scheitan is a band that occupied the Invasion Records roster for a couple of albums before garnering enough success to head over to the Century Media roster, and they're another example of a band who was quite far from unique, but skilled enough among the Swedish black metal underground to create competent, compelling material with a reasonable quality production that stood out amongst some of their shoddier peers. It's members, like the late Oskar Karlsson, sowed their seeds across a number of bands on this scene (and label roster) such as The Everdawn, Gates of Ishtar, Defleshed and Sarcasm, so there was already a massive creative impetus going into Travelling in Ancient Times, and perhaps explains why it sounds so damn professional even 27 years after it was first introduced.

Thematically it seems to be a mix of a paean to nature, with plenty of Christian slaughter involved, and I almost get a Viking thing going on, although the band's name is also a translation of 'Satan'. Basically, they've got all the important topics of the day covered, but you won't have time to mull this over, after a brief, pompous synth intro cedes into the straight blasting black metal of "October Journey". This one isn't a terribly interesting song, and that's one of the downsides to Scheitan in general, however they will often sate your hunger for a tasty riff as at :30 in "Autumn Departure" or the synth-laden, swaggering "Ride the Icewinds", or the Viking trot of "In Battle With Angels". There is plenty of payoff throughout this debut, so don't expect your drier Marduk-based experience where the volley of speed, blasting and intensity is really the whole point and any attempt at finer songwriting is an afterthought. Scheitan were going for the whole package, as interested in pleasing fans of their other bands' styles as much as the black metal core, and so there's a decent balance of synth atmospheres for folks who liked their use on Bathory's Blood Fire Death, and some muscular, propulsive rhythms to knock you prone.

The sound quality helps a lot, and I remember that causing this to stand out against labelmates like Skymning or Embracing, this one sounded as if was at a whole other level of competence. The drums, guitars and synthesizers all sound awesome, and while the raving bark hurled over the top of it isn't quite so potent or unique, it's fully suited to contrast the instruments. Basically I try to think of this as a more 'modern' (for the 90s) retelling of Bathory's shift into Viking metal, even though the original was still around at the time, so if you want a 'tidier' Blood Fire Death with a strong emphasis on balanced composition, Travelling in Ancient Times is a gem. I'd hesitate to call it great, but for an album that I just listen through once every few years it holds up.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

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