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Although released in 1996, the album was written and recorded during the late 80s and should have been released around 1987 and 1988. The songwriting here is fantastic, which strongly differs from the previous efforts of the 80s Bathory albums, and the musical structure here is amazing. Because of the drastic change in style, Quorthon decided not to release this after all, and instead, released Blood Fire Death, which was also a change in style that was slowly forming the transition. Think about it, if this had been released right after Under The Sign Of The Black Mark, it would have stunned a lot of the fans, and Quorthon didn't want to risk ruining the Bathory name. Going from thrashy death metal and writing songs about death and evil, to traditional styled metal with classical influences and writing about Norse mythology is a really big change, but I still think that this should have been released earlier. In a way, I'm glad it wasn't, because then there would have been no Blood Fire Death album, but then again, this one could have easily repleaced 1990's Hammerheart album, for I think that it is superior.
1. Intro - Ah yes, the sounds of the North. This intro perfectly sets the mood for the album, including sounds of the Nordic village animals, voices in the distance and villagers moving about.
2. Man Of Iron - Beautiful acoustic tune. Quorthon's vocals are top notch here, as he displays his amazing ability to sing clear as well. I noticed that on a lot of other song that he uses clear vox on, he doesn't sound that smooth, and often strains to hit a certain note. But on here, his vocals are done pretty damn well.
3. One-Eyed Old Man - Here's where the drums and distortion finally kick in. It's pretty fast paced when compared to most of the other tracks on here. The clear vocals are done amazingly well, even on this faster tune, and the riffs are fantastic. One thing I love about this song are the solos. You know those kind that make you want to air play guitar? Yup. That's what these are. The mid section of this song includes a spoken narrative from an "old wise man", that I used to highly despise. Who knows, maybe it just grew on me over time, or maybe after reading the story line to the album, I decided to appreciate it more. Great song, none-the-less.
4. The Sword - Things slow down here, although they get a little bit heavier as well. Steady, slow and heavy, yet full of metallic power. The drumming is quite powerful and unique, and Quorthon’s vocals convey an attitude of strength and pride. Manowar, eat your fucking heart out!
5. The Stallion - The opening riff to this song is amazing. Hence the song title, it’s a semi-galloping riff. The pace and percussion to the song is quite similar to The Sword, but occasionally you’re able to hear some acoustic guitars in the background. The riffage is a little more interesting, and the vocals are a bit catchier, demonstrating a wider range than that of the last tune. The mid-guitar solo here is absolutely fantastic! It may not be the fastest, but I love it! Overall, this is simply one of the best.
6. The Woodwoman - Wonderful acoustic guitars open up this song, followed by a blast of heavy riffs and pounding drums. Once again, the pace remains the same as in the last two songs, but Quorthon’s voice shines out a little a bit more, showing great range and amazing harmony. Honestly, this song is quite heavy, but the vocal work is absolutely enchanting, catchy as hell. The way the acoustic guitars flow along with the pace and rhythm of the song is awesome too. Without them, the song would feel incomplete.
7. The Lake - Another slow paced tune with acoustic backing guitars. There is one thing that is quite special about this one though, and that’s the chorus. I mean…HOLY SHIT! AMAZING! How does he do that?? This chorus is wonderful!! Catchy!! The way it flows with the pace of the song is so killer!! Hails to this! The acoustic backing guitars and melodic chants only add more to the mood, making this a masterpiece. Sounds like it may be the best song on the album, eh? Well, it’s not…
8. Gods Of Thunder, Of Wind, And Of Rain - This one is! What starts out with a bass intro and horse sound effects, leads into a furious metallic assault of heavy riffs, pounding double bass, atmospheric chants and one hell of a rhythm. Unlike the last few songs, this one has quite a bit of speed to it. Remember how I talked about how catchy the chorus was in the song before this one? Well, imagine an entire song being that amazing. That’s how this one is. Quorthon’s vocals show a lot of pride and power, and the chants….well, I always thought that by adding chants into Metal, it was only for atmosphere and mood, especially in Bathory’s case, but in this song, they do more than just that. They kick ass just like the rest of the instruments. And the guitar solo…well, that’s also the best one on the album. Yeah, the previous songs had some pretty killer guitar solos, but this one just beats them all. Overall, I think this song gives the other epic Bathory track Blood Fire Death a run for the money, and this is only half the length of that one.
9. The Ravens - Shortest track on the album, but still a great one. Like Man Of Iron, this one is all in acoustics, also written and sung at the same pace as that one. Perfect tune to relax to after the full metal assault of Gods Of Thunder, Of Wind, And Of Rain. It’s also a great way to lead the listener into the album’s epic ending…
10. The Revenge Of The Blood On Ice - Although this is no One Rode To Asa Bay (and it sure as hell is no Blood Fire Death!!), this epic track is truly a masterpiece. The same type of rhythm is used for this track as the one in The Sword or The Woodwoman. Quorthon uses great harmony in his vocals as chants blast through the background of the song to create an amazing mood of epic atmosphere. The song undergoes various tone changes through-out, but never lets the listener down once or bores them, even in its 10 minute span. The only way to end off a masterpiece, is with a masterpiece itself…