Pagan Skull is a Finnish trio that plays national romantical punk-rock-oi!-mixture with a longing for the past. This is the band's debut album, released after three demos.

The songs range from the steady mid-tempo oi!-rock of "Sota" and "Kadotettu Rohkeus" to faster punk in for example "Crush the Commie Scum," to the highly romanticised and emotional punk-rock in "Kotimaa" and "Äänisen Aallot" - and that's not all. For example, the finishing song is an almost doomy ten-minuter in its slowly progressing simplisticity with harsher shouts. There truly is a lot of variation, but it all comes together way better than on the band's "Heretic Finland"-demo. The songs share a slightly clumsily played instrumentation (in the traditional manner of oi!-music) which helps tie the different styles together, as does the pleasingly raw, harsh and sturdy enough soundscape. Even the acoustic instruments, such as flutes and jaw harp, fit in perfectly.

Naturally, the attitude is what counts. No matter whether we're talking about the most romanticised, simplistic, musically refined, fastest or the slowest moments, the band's honesty and attitude shines through. The lyrics are a scream, the band's longing for a dream nation and a cry to retain self-pride. They are rather harsh at times which I found to break the "romanticised bubble" so to speak, but other than that their honest and direct approach fits the music perfectly. I still wonder why the group uses English for some songs, though.

The album makes an impact with its catchy and simplistic melodies, emotional and honest approach and the occasional aggression. I would've wanted some more balls from the soundscape, but other than that the record leaves very little of concrete issues to complain about. "Tursaansydän" ends up feeling a little external to the album despite its heaviness giving a nicely serious ending to it, and the guitar riffs in some parts would need more punch; for example the title track, which could've used more mass and edge to make it more epic instead of a somewhat passive reminiscing-tune.

Either way, "In the Hands of the Fatherland" is a great debut album. It shows the band's versatility and strenghts and how much they've progressed since their demos, but also leaves a lot of room for improvements in solidfying the band's playing and strengthening their overall sound and style. There's simply too many leaps from one style and lyrical theme to another that causes the album to lose some punch. Bonus points for the stylish painting on the cover and for the visual side's design overall.

8- / 10