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I remember the first time I heard this album I had a hard time swallowing the horrible clean vocals and production glitches (at various points some crackles and pops appear - vinyl nostalgia and all). I admit to not being familiar with Bathory's whole back catalog, but I've heard the albums are considered to be the most important ones and I know about the band's history, so of course the atrocious clean vocals and low production values were no surprise to me.
The surprise came a few weeks later when I pulled this album out of the cobwebs for another spin. I have no idea what happened in the meantime, but suddenly the little sound problems weren't so bad and I thought that the production fitted the album quite well overall. Even the clean vocals stopped making me cringe. Had they actually grown on me without my knowledge during the period when I didn't play the album? No matter, lets do a bit of reviewing, shall we?
Most of what you get is mid-tempo "Epic Viking-Metal" (copyright Quorthon), which means lyrics about how Scandinavia is a cold place (when will we get Inuit metal?), mother earth and nature is where it's at and how honour & pride are cool qualities (fortunately, we are mostly spared from the giggle-inducing Manowar image). Lots of rather cool and pleasant guitar riffs (maybe not very original, but the whole album is done with surprising conviction and that's what makes it work) with basic, yet fun melodic leads on top, lots of those infamous Viking choirs here and there for variety's sake, and an acoustic guitar break with samples of sword fights, water and horses. There's even a faster song to remind us Vikings are only part time treehuggers!
Much better than Destroyer of Worlds, this is sure to please diehard Bathory fans, but newcomers should probably start with Hammerheart or another of the classics. In any case, if you're thinking of taking the plunge, I suggest that you give this album some time before deciding if you like it or not.
The second (and final?) disc of the Nordland saga is already available. I have not heard it yet, but I've heard good things about it. Supposedly the two combined are stronger than the sum of their parts. This demands investigation I suppose....
Originally posted at: www.musiquemachine.com