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I have to admit I’d given up on Bathory after the two soulless thrash albums “Requiem” and “Octagon”. Someone gave me a copy of “Destroyer Of Worlds” a while after its release and I gave it a few spins but found it, though better than the aforementioned albums, far from even decent for a band with such a legacy. Therefore, I didn’t bother to listen to the “Nordland” albums when they came out. Recently, I decided to give them a listen and I was quite positively surprised.
“Nordland I” is a really good album. The atmosphere is firmly “Viking era” Bathory. I would say it’s somewhere between “Hammerheart” and “Twilight” in its basic style, but a bit more melodic (at times even a bit folky) and certainly better produced than any earlier Bathory album. Also, there are more layers of guitars and vocals than ever before. These are probably reasons why this album sounds more mature than earlier Bathory, but it doesn’t mean it sounds overproduced or uninspired by any means: this is the most inspired Bathory album since “Hammerheart”. This is especially the case where the vocals are concerned: unlike on the immediate predecessors, Quorthon finally sounds like he really means what he’s singing again (though his vocal performance on “One Rode To Asa Bay” is still unmatched by anything on this or any other album).
Most of the songs are long and at times a bit on the repetitive side, but that’s not a bad thing: it gives them a kind of hypnotic quality. Most of the songs here could be described as “Viking mantra’s”. All songs are really good, but two stand out as especially memorable: “Nordland” because of its great main riff, “Foreverdark Woods” for its amazing atmosphere (probably the best track on the album).
In my opinion, this album is not as good as “Hammerheart”, but it is better than “Twilight” and “Blood On Ice”.