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Let me start by saying I don't normally go for this sort of vocals, and I hear that Quorthon is also not the best example of this vocal style, but I must admit that this album is very strong. I'm not sure why though, it has just has that appeal. I cannot say the same for Bathory's earlier albums, that stuff simply doesn't float my Viking boat. I would recommend Hammerheart to fans of Manowar, as the Viking theme succeeds in bridging the two styles of music. This is, after all, how I discovered the Viking Metal of Bathory. But we're left with a problem. Although Hammerheart falls safely into the category of true metal, can the same be said of the earlier stuff? I have heard stories of opposing Bathory factions taking this to various extremes; the followers of Bathory's 'Black Metal', and 'Viking Metal' accordingly.
Anyway, on to the songs. 'Shores In Flames', is probably the greatest Viking tune of all time. When I heard this song I made it my business to search out Bathory's other releases to see how they compared. Sadly, nothing compares to Hammerheart! The guy singing is a Viking and it's as simple as that. This is probably how I can excuse the sub-par vocals - they fit the record so well. I'm not saying that the vocals aren't emotional though, I can only reiterate that they fit the record so damn well. After hearing the opening track, I was expecting something of a come-down, but the next track was named simply 'Valhalla', and rightly so - the splendour or grandeur or whatever this song puts across was enough to convince me. If anyone's wondering where all the speed and senseless screaming has gone - it's been replaced by slower, majestic music that one can actually understand and appreciate! But then there's 'Baptised In Fire And Ice'. This track is as heavy as it gets as far as I'm concerned, a perfect balance of chugga chugga etc and it puts over a very strong lyric at the same time. 'Father To Son' is not as good as the previous tracks, but it carries on in the same vein and should in no circumstances be skipped. 'Song To Hall Up High' - this is what makes Bathory's Viking Metal so much better than that earlier stuff. I think Joey DeMaio said it's true metal if it's from the heart, and that's where this track succeeds, it can only be described as beautiful. The best is saved until last with 'One Rode To Asa Bay'. There's no doubting the excellence of this track, lyrics, atmosphere, everything, it's just incredible.
In the meantime, I think the two Nordland releases are a realisation that this type of music is by far the better course for Quorthon to take. Nordland I and Nordland II are really good albums, they're taking the Hammerheart idea further with the addition of even more layered guitars and there's more layers besides that aren't guitars. I think Quorthon said he'd like to move away from guitars altogether, but that's not really possible is it? If so, I'm sure my true metal instincts would have something to say. But, as a wise man once said, if it rocks, it rocks.