Bathory – Twilight Of The Gods (1991) Album Review

What is with these Bathory reviews? someone asked me a while ago. Truthfully, Bathory is a band that nowadays is mostly known by some experience and more older fans of metal, or maybe by some fans that appreciate some particular metal genres. Bathory, in my opinion, deserves a place together with bands that written history in both rock and metal, bands such as, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Guns n Roses, Iron Maiden or Judas Priest.

Bathory influenced bands in 2 of the most appreciated metal genres nowadays, and maybe, two of the most extreme metal genres of all time, viking metal and black metal. I do not want to get into their black metal early days and since I recently finished reviewing Hammerheart (1990), it is only normal to continue with its follower, and much more amazing, Twilight of the Gods (1991).

Hammerheart was a great experience. Quorthon hinted in his 1988 release of his 4th album Blood Fire Death that he is going to change his playing style and switch to something a little bit more atmospheric and at a slower pace. Hammerheart was well received, well enough to have a follower that followed it pretty fast (just 1 year difference between albums, it is really a performance).

Twilight of the Gods continues the saga, so to say. Like in Hammerheart, the major themes in this album are nature, vikings, legends, myths and also the anti-christian theme was not abandoned in this one either. A person that has been listening throughout his albums might figure it out that in almost all of them, he always persecuted Christianity when he had the chance.

This album begins with such a persecution. The self titled track, Twilight of the Gods is the most longest track of this album reaching almost 13 minutes length. It is composed of a prologue that lasts for around 1 minute, the song itself, and an epilogue, which lasts again for around 1 minute. Thematically speaking, this song is the work of a genius. Going to rant a little bit about hip-hop artists: You guys should listen or at least read the lyrics of this song, this is how you can portray a realistic view of the world and in a more amazingly way. We can also feel some doom metal influences in this song.

The 2nd and 3rd track of this album, Through Blood By Thunder and Blood and Iron follow the same patter that we were used to after listening the 1st track. To be honest, they sound a little bit monotonous. The first one represents Quorthon’s view upon the world claiming that the ones that watch over us are the gods in the never ending sky and the one that chooses and writes his own destiny are not the gods, but man himself. “He with one-eye” represents a viking god, in my opinion, Oden most likely. Blood and Iron changes the theme into a battle one, it is more like a military song rather than an atmospheric song like the previous ones.

Under the Runes and To Enter Your Mountain follows a similar pattern with Blood and Iron, continuing the saga with more details. A bad thing regarding these songs is that they do not come up with new style, they sound monotonous and way too repetitive, but it wouldn’t be a Bathory album if they were any different, somehow you can overlook this because of the way the songs flow.

Bond of Blood the 6th track of the album ends the saga while the last song, the 7th track, Hammerheart (weird though, this song is not part of the first album which is self titled, rather it is part of the second one) is the resolution and also the conclusion of this album, ending it like it began, in an atmospheric way. Hammerheart is more of an hymn rather than a song, a hymn dedicated to the viking gods and to the viking people.

Blood Fire Death was the signal for a change of play, Hammerheart was the first experimental album in this new field but Twilight of the Gods in my opinion, serves as the best viking metal album ever made by Bathory and Quorthon, a place that could not be taken even nowadays but other bands. In my opinion, true viking metal died together with Quorthon, simply because the other bands could not reach even a quarter of the sound and style that Quorthon adopted in his works.

Overall Impression: 98/100

Bathory – Hammerheart (1990) Album Review

A true legend of the underground metal. In a few words, this is how I could define Bathory, originally a band, but later it became the solo project of a prodigy, Quorthon. Quorthon proved his musical skills from a young age, at only 17 years he started Bathory with 2 additional band members. By placing two of his songs in a compilation, his songs attracted a lot of attention.

Hammerheart marked a change in his musical career. This was the first album he recorded alone. From now on, Bathory will be his solo project with him handling all the instruments, including recording, producing and vocals as well. Hammerheart marked a change in his style, changing from the typical hybrid metal black metal that he played until Blood Fire Death (1988) and pioneering a genre that later will be called as viking metal.

Quorthon and his band Bathory are claimed to be the true creators of this genre. However, while listening through all of his albums, you can also feel black metal elements in it. The thing is, he changed his playing style. Instead of continuing with the typical fast tempo guitar riffs and blast drum beats, he choose a more atmospheric path, reducing the rawness that was featured in his more earlier works. He even gave up doing shrieked voice, which later will define all the black metal bands.

Hammerheart has a more slower rhythm, you can feel the atmosphere so to say. Quorthon’s voice is purely awesome. Through this album, you can feel that he does not have the true qualities that the vocals nowadays have, at least on studio albums, but I think, this is what makes his voice rather fantastic. You can say that he has character through his voice, which is pretty much imperfect.

Another change is that you can also hear choirs in the background of his songs. His songs also feature new themes. Mythological themes, historical themes mostly related to the vikings, nature themes as well but also the anti-christian theme was not abandoned either. The only thing that he abandoned was the occult and the satanic themes featured on his early albums.

By far, the best song of this album is actually kept as the last track. One Rode to Asa Bay describes a historical moment when christian missionaries walked on the Norse lands to convert the native villagers to their own religion and for starters they requested the building of a church in a land called Asa Bay. This song is more or less, like a story, depicting the reaction the native villagers had and also the way the Christians reacted once the native villagers refused to build the church for them.

This song is truly the work of a genius. Religious people might find it a blasphemy, but for me, knowing how cruel and how barbaric religion has been with people that had other beliefs, its the truth in its pure state. The ending of the song with the lyrics “Still he heard from somewhere in the woods / Old crow of wisdom say / …people of Asa Bay, it’s only just begun…“. The song was dedicated to a writer named Dean Andersson a person that has been writing books about the viking culture and also the moment when they faced the christian conversion.

The album actually begins with the song Shores in Flame featuring acoustic guitars. The 2nd track Valhalla is a lot more heavier than the previous one featuring fast tempo guitar riffs and amazing guitar solos. Baptised in Fire and Ice is in my opinion the poorest song from this album, it feels a little repetitive at times. It is followed up by Father to Son which is a lot more atmospheric than the other songs which makes it one of the best songs from this album. Song to Hall up High serves as a well deserved pause before the last 3 tracks, featuring melodic elements, it is like an elegy consisting of a resolution made by a viking warrior, expressing his emotions (actually 2 tracks, in the 2003 reissue). Home of Once Brave is another track which competes for the best track from this album, featuring atmospheric guitar riffs and impressive vocals from Quorthon.

One Rode to Asa Bay already mentioned above is the last track of this album. Though the voice might disturb a little bit since it does not quite fit the rhythm, the guitar solos, which are few so to say, and the instrumentals are absolutely amazing. Outro servers as an end for this epic album, being the shortest song.

In conclusion, Bathory’s 1990 release is one of the most noticeable and one of the most important works which defined a genre and inspired many other bands. However, in my opinion, true viking metal died together with Quorthon and Bathory but his music will last forever as a point of reference in the metal scene and also for the fans.

Overall Impression: 95/100

Dimmu Borgir – In Sorte Diaboli (2007) Album Review

It’s time to get serious and dig more into the underground side of metal. I am here to review the 2007 album release of the Norwegian symphonic black metal band, Dimmu Borgir (translated means, Dark Castles) entitled, In Sorte Diaboli (A Connection with the Devil). I find myself a fan of Dimmu Borgir for many years. Though this is probably one of the most controversial albums up to date, it is also probably the most successful album they ever made, peeking at top charts in Norway.

Dimmu Borgir without further comments is the best and the most successful black metal band in Norway and outside of its country of origin, with the biggest disk sales. They show us throughout their works that singing and performing black metal with symphonic influences is not that easy. In Sorte Diaboli is not much different from their other works. Though the concept of this album mostly tries to underline the satanic and anti-christian trait, it is not an album that resumes at this simplistic thing only.

Dimmu Borgir is a band that never jokes. Visually, they might not seem very different than the other black metal bands from the underground metal. Corpse paint, outfit that is pretty much common for a black metal band, and a reputation that will always prove to be true. I can’t claim that they are satanic or if they truly worship Satan but one thing is for sure, all satanists are rockers but not all rockers are satanists and I think that this concept applies for Dimmu Borgir as well as for the other bands.

In Sorte Diaboli begins in a royal way, as expected from a black metal band, with a very expressive song entitled The Serpentine Offering. Of course, you don’t need to be Einstein to figure it out, what this song means, the title already spoils everything. Artistically speaking, this song is also accompanied by a video where the band tried I think a little too hard to seem what they are already, a black metal band. Commendable as it may be, but this album gives me the impression of overreaction and an excess of work that in the end proved to be in vain, because in my opinion it is not even close compared to their more older works.

This album, sound-wise has many similarities with their 1997 release, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. Unlike Death Cult Armageddon (2003) which makes use of electronic and technical sounds or Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia (2001), this album has an attempt to return to their older sound but without much success.

Another notable song from this album is The Chosen Legacy, the second track from this album, once again accompanied by a video, sending the image that it intends to and the never changing message through their lyrics. This album in concept is way too repetitive. All songs, throughout their lyrics in a way or another, denigrates Christianity in a way or another so I don’t really see why should I review each one at a time.

The last song that I want to mention in this review, probably the best, and the most intelligent, if I could say so, is The Sacrilegious Scorn. Lyrically, same story like in the other two, visually, a true feast. This song represents a paraphrase of Christianity symbolism and motives. We see roman soldiers gambling for Christ’s garment, a mockery as well. But this time we see it reversed when the presented Antichrist does this thing to St. Michael. From an artistic point of view, I think this video is very good, a notable performance.

Now, good old Dimmu Borgir, another album, a half-failure. The voice did not change, Shagrath’s shrieked voice is probably one of the best there is, judging from the fact that live his performance is even better. Vortex also gets the same attention in this album as well. Nothing much changed with this album.

This album is also notable for Hellhammers presence at drums. His presence is surely noticed because of a sudden improvement in the drum quality in the songs. He also contributed in the remastered 1996 album Stormblast (released in 2005) with a splendid performance in the song Sorgens Kammer.

Probably the only thing that changed is their supposed orientation. Usually black metal bands tend to be non-commercial but I think that with this album, Dimmu Borgir kinda broke this myth but this is my opinion, only they know what did they want to accomplish with it. However compared to other material, this was more intended for a bigger fan-base rather than the typical non-conformist black metal that they’ve played until now.

Nonetheless, Dimmu Borgir was the first black metal band that I came in contact with. It still has a special place in my shelf and it won’t be removed very soon. Those that like them will like this album too, though I say that it is not really better than the other albums they released. For All Tid and Stormblast (1996) are the most notable albums they ever made and I think that they will remain as such for a very long time.

Overall Impression: 68/100