This has to be one of my favourite albums of all time, for numerous reasons. Firstly, I like black metal but I don't particularly like Satanic themes. So to find what is essentially black metal, but with historical and national themes, is absolutely fantastic. I don't think this band's work can be compared to any other genre of metal; however if you appreciate Viking or heathen metal but want something uniquely British, perhaps a Saxon equivalent, then look no further.
The musicianship is excellent; the band are extremely versatile in both heavier, more frantic songs (e.g. A valley thick with oaks), and soft, gentle ones (e.g. Children of the Stones). All the music is so loaded with emotion and pride that I challenge you not to be brought to tears by it.
In fact, the entire concept of national pride, and celebrating our history and heritage is absolutely fantastic. The band manages to stir this up and whip it into a frenzy without ever coming close to racism.
The vocals in particular are, quite simply, out of this world. The main staple of black metal, the grunt/scream, is present in this album and well-executed to good effect. But where this album really excels is the careful and not-too-excessive use of otherworldly, drone-like clean vocals. I tend to refer to those more as "chanting". They make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. They sound like a band of Saxon warriors has risen up from the Earth and are standing beside you ready to charge into battle once more. It sounds like an army of thousand-year-old voices are there ready to protect our island nation. For this reason, the revised version of "Defending the Realm" that is found on this album is my current favourite song from any artist.
There's not a single track on this album I would skip. Nowadays that's quite an achievement.