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"Destroyer of Worlds" was the last regular Bathory album that I bought. Quorthon (R.I.P.) had tortured his audience with a sadistic consequence for more than a decade. From my blackened thrash metal point of view, already "Hammerheart" and "Twilight of the Gods" had been rather boring, but the true milestones of horror were known by other names. "Requiem" and "Octagon", both as charming as an anal enema, had ruined the once fantastic reputation of Quorthon in an unforeseen manner. But lo and behold, "Destroyer of Worlds" starts in a surprisingly strong manner. "Lake of Fire" conveys an intensive atmosphere of desperation and sadness while scoring with an authentic heaviness and the haunting chorus. The song builds a bridge to Quorthon's Viking era and I want to go even a step further. In my humble opinion, this sluggish colossus is the best Viking track of Bathory. The following title track appears as a thunder which rumbles in the distance. Sinister background choirs coalesce with simple melody lines and the overall result is anything else but mediocre. Two good songs in a row? Is this really an album of the late Quorthon?
However, a rude awakening follows. The longer the album progresses, the more Quorthon seems to be confused. He wanders cheerfully through great musical valleys of creative nothingness without realizing that he gets lost in the most barren landscapes. We who have no other option than to follow his crude route are irritated. "Pestilence": gruesome, dissonant barking meets incredibly meaningless guitars. "Bleeding": don't know what to say. Whenever I want to listen to these seven minutes, I fall asleep after the first 90 seconds. I just can confirm that these 90 seconds deliver slow-moving, tedious and uninspired sounds. "109": a mixture of an industrialized beginning with extremely simple-minded guitars and a fast-paced second part with average lines. Well, it's time to stop this list of terror. It does not make sense to go into any more detail. The album just passes by, intelligent song titles ("Kill, Kill, Kill") alternate with absolutely pointless solos or primitive leads. My last hope was that "Liberty and Justice" could be a cover of Agnostic Front. To translate a German proverb: "hope is the last to die". But it dies.
Do I need to provide you with information concerning the production? The more or less thrashing songs sound noisy, the dark atmosphere of the first two songs fades away quickly and leaves nothing but a bloodless, synthetic and emotionless appearance. Aggravating this situation, the clean vocals of "Sudden Death" indicate a serious illness of the artist and the strange keyboard effects support this impression. Tragically, exactly this song could had been another little highlight due to its actually decent riffs and its smooth flow. But I must admit that terms such as "highlights" are absolutely inappropriate in the context of "Destroyer of Worlds". Anyway, the final challenge is to endure the last two songs with a playtime of 17 minutes in total. Marathon of cruelty! "White Bones" sucks, inter alia because of its blousy part. "Day of Wrath" sucks as well, although it does not insult the listener with another blues sequence. The prototypical Viking song fails to deliver opulence or grandeur; absolute lameness is the name of the game. Forget it! Despite its good start, "Destroyer of Worlds" defended the pretty miserable status quo of Quorthon, no more, no less. I will probably never listen to the Nordland albums.
The story of Bathory is one with many twists and turns. From the early period, inspired by hardcore punk and the likes of Motörhead and Venom, on through the more epic Viking-era and then to the strange midlife crisis that characterized the band's mid-'90s output, Quorthon created a musical legacy like no other. And so, six years after the last Bathory full-length, the band released its tenth L.P. Titled Destroyer of Worlds, this record had a lot to live up to. According to interviews, the original material was a bit progressive and ended up being totally scrapped as, once word that a new Bathory album was spread, Quorthon received a lot of fan mail that indicated that what the fans wanted was a return to earlier styles. As the story goes, the band hastily wrote new songs, based on this feedback, and this is what was released to the world in October 2001. Unfortunately, if this is true, it would mean that the only fans that cared enough to write were those with bad taste, as the end result is completely disappointing.
The record begins on somewhat of a positive note, with three tracks that hearken back to the Nordic style that was featured on classic albums such as Hammerheart and even Blood On Ice. “Lake of Fire”, “Destroyer of Worlds” and “Ode” are mid-paced songs that possess an epic feeling that would surely be pleasing to fans of the band's Viking-era. Everything is there, from the acoustic bits to the choir vocals to the memorable guitar melodies. The first and third songs would not have been out of place on Twilight of the Gods, for example. The title track fits in, somewhat, but is the weak link of these three, being a bit repetitive and less-inspired. “Ode” has the most feeling behind it, with Quorthon's vocals really conveying a sombre mood not heard since “Fade Away”, from his second solo effort. Had Destroyer of Worlds been an E.P. That featured only these songs, then it would have been a much more successful endeavour. However, these tracks are followed up by material that is not worthy of the Bathory name.
It is difficult to comprehend the mentality behind the rest of the songs. The music does not encapsulate the band's entire career, as it merely touches upon the Viking sound and then meanders through a miserable hell of garbage that is reminiscent of Octagon. It is a mixture of bad thrash with a lot of unbearable groove nonsense. There are occasional moments where Quorthon obviously tried tying things together with a choir or acoustic part, here or there, but it does nothing to salvage this filth. The thing that makes this so depressing is that he has always been such a talented musician and songwriter, yet sometimes churns out ridiculous trash for his own amusement, possibly. As a longtime Bathory fan, it is truly disturbing to even attempt to listen to the rest of this and it is strongly recommended that no one does so, unless you wish to punish yourself. The production is rather shoddy, but not so terrible. It is not bad in the same sense as the early albums, where it actually adds some rawness to the atmosphere. It just sounds muffled and flat, throughout the majority of the recording. It tends to hold back the few good songs, just slightly, while making the rest all the more atrocious.
If you consider yourself to be a die-hard Bathory fan, find some way to acquire “Lake of Fire” and “Ode”, and then forget that the rest even exist. You will forever regret it, if you decide to let curiosity get the better of you and try exploring the rest of the album. It is one of the most bloody awful things to happen within the realm of metal and truly sickens and offends me as a loyal member of the Bathory Hordes. Avoid this like the plague, or like a hooker with oozing sores around her mouth. Destroyer of Worlds is a despicable blemish on Bathory's legacy and may have been the final nail in the coffin, if not for the brilliant Nordland releases. If this represents what the fans wanted, then all those that wrote letters should be tracked down and massacred.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Destroyer of Worlds is an aural exhibition of an important, almost constantly evolving artist who had at long last firmly settled into a particular style, or rather two particular styles, and thus it bears some striking similarities to both the past Bathory canons of the glorious Hammerheart, Twilight of the Gods and Blood On Ice Viking heavy metal trilogy, and the sodden and boring thrash that Quorthon thought for some reason he'd dial in during the mid 90s. The roots of both are set in the grimier blackness of Quorthon's youth, but now structurally manifest through either an emphasis on soaring male choirs, lead guitars reminiscent of the slower Manowar fare, and simplistic riffs that do not exactly inspire outside of their presentation as an atmospheric component; or in lame duck, barreling thrash rhythms that seem effectively pedestrian in intent and impact.
The problems I ran into with this album stem largely from its clear division of content. If one were to glance back at the discography, nothing here is necessarily new or out of place, but there is a crippling inconsistency to how the album flows as a whole. Sorrowful, plodding sequences like "Ode" or "Destroyer of Worlds" provide nostalgia for Hammerheart or Twilight of the Gods, but then you've got the clear delineation between that and a piece like "Death from Above", which while not as miserable as, say, Octagon, is at best fueled by mediocrity, cliche and a guitar riff that some random groove/thrash bar band in 1994 might have thrown together at a moment's notice. To Quorthon's credit, he at least tries to create a bridge between these two forces, this ying and yang: you'll hear some atmosphere, distant synths and such in a few of the thrash bits, but then you've got others like "Liberty and Justice" or the pure groove shite "Sudden Death" which amount to nothing more than massive crap stains over any potential the album might have woven.
Destroyer of Worlds is in dire need of a clipping, so swelled is it with middling content, so teemed with tripe. Not only the 6-7 shoddy bludgeoning thrashers (which, in addition to those mentioned include "109", "Pestilence", and the darker and mildly less annoying "Krom"); but also a few of the more spacious, drawn out pieces. For example, the 8+ minute closers "White Bones" and "Day of Wrath" seem rather dull and bloated: the former impregnated with some pedantic groove metal rhythms in the bridge, the latter for its almost Pink Floyd like progression and inane self-referential lyrics in the third verse. You know you're really running out of ideas when this happens, and this is yet another flaw with Destroyer. It retreads numerous prior trends in Quorthon's composition, but it offers no superior or even interesting slant on any of them...
I'm not willing to entirely throw this album under the bus. It's more of a weak and confused effort than one actively terrible, but at its best, even songs like "Ode", "Lake of Fire" and the title track are underwhelming, average shadows of past glories. The album never feels as if it's transitional, whereas just about every important step of the past felt exciting and revolutionary. Many other bands had by this point taken up the Norse mythos crown conceptually (Enslaved, Amon Amarth etc), so it makes sense that Quorthon was no longer exclusively focused there lyrically, but despite the broader prose, the music itself is not reflective of such expansion. The production values are fairly level throughout, the boxy and dense guitar tone and vocals being consistent even when he's shifting ranges, but as an album it feels both redundant and conflicted, indecisive about the next steps and thus suckling at the teat of prior missteps and majesties.
One has to wonder if there is an actual cap on how many times a band can reinvent itself, or an individual musician for that matter. But apparently for Quorthon, this limit would be imposed on him by a short life rather than any shortcoming in his imagination, as he was all over the map between his various incarnations of Bathory and his solo project from 1989 to his untimely end in 2004. Within the context of a stylistic shift, his return to the studio after a 4 year absence (counting his 1997 album “Purity Of Essence”) can be most compared to “Blood Fire Death” in that showed a band trying to move away from a thrash sound and toward a Viking sound, but being more the former than the latter. However, the difference lay in what kind of thrash metal was being departed from, as the modern, raw, hardcore infused characters of “Requiem” and “Octagon” were quite different from Bathory’s blackened early days.
To put it plainly, “Destroyer Of Worlds” is all over the place. Some have rightly pointed out that this album could come off as being a compilation to anyone not familiar with Bathory’s work, with the exception of a largely consistent production character that is aggressive, but notably less raucous and low-fi compared to “Requiem”. The shifting back and forth between thrash, punk and Manowar influences is quite jarring, as are the seemingly random lyrical subjects that range from apocalyptic themes to ice hockey. But the musical back and forth between what sounds like a real attempt at reaching back to the same spirit that originally brought forth Hammerheart (and its technical predecessor “Blood On Ice”) and a slightly cleaned up version of 90s thrash that popped up in the mid 90s, is so blatant that it sounds like two different bands fighting each other, with a slight edge to the modern thrash metal sound when considering the majority of the songs, and the character of even the Viking oriented songs in comparison to both the previous incarnation of the band and the two “Nordland” albums that followed this one.
While a bit inconsistent in what genre this album is going for, this album is a fairly decent listen in terms of overall quality. Generally the longer songs tend to be more geared towards the slower, atmospheric aesthetic associated with the Viking era paradigm, largely coming off as a heavier revisiting of “Blood On Ice”. The opening “Lake Of Fire” and the closer “Day Of Wrath” are the strongest embodiment of that olden, “Into Glory Ride” sound where the acoustic guitars are massive yet distant sounding, layered over with droning choir lines and grooving riffs to create an image of grand mountains and crystal skies over a frostbitten landscape. By contrast, filthy displays of angst and violence such as “109” and “Kill, Kill, Kill” offer up an ugly reminder of where Quorthon had taken Bathory not too long before, though the production quality (especially the drum sound) is a bit more digestible and the vocal work is not quite as raw. “Bleeding” actually goes a bit further and combines the modern thrash character of before with some of the grunge elements of Quorthon’s solo work, sporting a verse riff that sounds strikingly similar to Alice In Chains’ “Them Bones”.
In terms of individual songs, this is a very strong album with a little of something for consumers of both of Bathory’s post-black metal eras, but as a whole album “Requiem” has the edge in terms of a consistent listen from one song to the next. It’s difficult to really fit together epic throwbacks to “Hammerheart” like that of “Ode” with a hybrid of early 90s Metallica and Pantera like “Krom” occupying the same album, and to this day it’s difficult for me to fully get through this album without thinking that some of these songs should have been separated out into a different album. Chalk it up to the paradox of going forward by taking a few steps back into the past, and also waiting for 4 years of studio silence before doing so, leading many to postulate that some of these songs may have been written years apart from each other. Either way, Quorthon never had a dull moment in his career, but this would qualify as one of his lesser appreciated ones, and in comparison to the towering masterpieces that it has to contend with, it’s easy to see why.
Destroyer of Worlds is sort of odd as far as Bathory albums go. It doesn't really have any sort of theme, and mixes seemingly unrelated tracks that sort of combine the different themes of past Bathory albums. Alas, a neophyte to black metal could be excused for thinking "Destroyer of Worlds" was a compilation album. However, I assure you, it is not.
A lot of people dislike "Destroyer of Worlds", and I really don't see why. The epic "Lake of Fire", the gritty, speedy ode to ice hockey "Sudden Death", the beautiful and shifting "White Bones", it has the best of all worlds. Granted, Bathory is at their most powerful when some sort of theme ties together an album. For example, Hammerheart is often regarded as their magnum opus, and for good reason (although Nordland came close, in my opinion). The crude production and dark content of "Under The Sign..." and "Bathory", the Odinist "Twilight of the Gods", the descent into musical Valhalla with "Blood Fire Death", "Destroyer of Worlds" is definitely the black sheep of the family. But it works. Magnificently.
A lot of people complain about how Bathory albums get stale after a while. As a big fan of Quorthon's work, I never experienced this first hand, but no one can possibly hold that complaint to this album. There is plenty of variety, and it's all done properly. Quorthon proved that once again, he knew what he was doing. Stylistically, it's sort of a combination of "Viking Bathory", Quorthon's "Album", and the band's eponymous debut. Is it a little scattered? Yes. It's by no means perfect. But the tracks are, for the most part, very strong. The album is accessable, and a good starting point for folks just getting into Bathory. I highly recommend it.
Side note: It's been my cycling album as of late. Functions admirably there too. Few things beat weaving in and out of traffic, illuminated by dim street lamps and moonlight, to the tune of "Sudden Death".
The trouble with being Bathory is having such a classic back catalogue to emulate is no mean feat. Not that the legend has already been tarnished with the nonchalant release of the Requiem and Octagon albums in the mid nineties. These quite awful long players were a far cry from the grandeur that was found on ‘Blood, Fire, Death’ or ‘Hammerheart’. In fact, Bathory had run out of steam by the time ‘Twilight of the Gods’ was released in 1991.
So here we are in 2001 and a new Bathory album which could have been an absolute killer. The trouble with ‘Destroyer of Worlds’ is that it borrows much of its contents from Requiem and Octagon, as well as Hammerheart. There are sublime moments that echo the bands glorious past on tracks like, Day of Wrath, Lake of Fire, Ode, and the epic nature of the title track. Here we find a new surge of passion that is 100% classic Bathory.
But then we have the thrashy mess that condemns the rest of the album to oblivion. To be fair the faster material does have its moments but there never seems to be a good reason for their inclusion. They are like album fillers when set against the aforementioned slower tracks. Destroyer of Worlds is definitely the bands finest opus since ‘Twilight of the Gods’, and yet it is a mixed affair that will both please and annoy anyone who is into the bands past history. It is a pity Quorthon couldn’t find it in himself to give the fans what they wanted to hear. He has obviously split the difference and that has resulted in an album split into two halves.