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The Hammerheart that the old 4-track didn't allow - 91%

michinoku, September 1st, 2004

Okay, so after the series of releases in the mid 90's that, barring Blood on Ice for the fact that its release was delayed, made most fans of Bathory begin to doubt if Quothorn would ever regain his stride. I suppose that the jury is probably hung on the Nordland saga, two back-to-back, bonecrushingly epic albums that would aim to tell various stories of Norse legend with the viking metal sound that Quothorn basically pioneered with the opener and closer of Blood Fire Death.

So the deal is?
It's fucking awesome.

What you can expect? The swelling, wordless choirs of a Quothorn overdubbed, along with much more confident lead vocals that only occasionally falter with the imprecision that made his attempts 15 years ago so damned charming. The slower pace (for the most part) that helps to build a totally fucking believable atmosphere about the album, showcasing the simplistic but effective song structure and some absolutely beautiful riffs that are trademark Bathory. The occasional sample of wind blowing, water flowing, horses galloping and some well-placed synth to give things as epic a tinge as you could want. There's something indescribable about the album that just feels right, from the full-on folk of Ring of Gold, to the orgiastic build before the vocals come in on Vinterblot. And I can't quite tell what the instrument is at the beginning of Foreverdark Woods (although it sounds vaguely like a mandolin), but when it returns a few times more throughout the course of that particular 8 minute epic, it really fits in to the flow of the song, rather than seeming like a random instrument choice for versatility. Just about the only song that picks up the pace a bit is Broken Sword, although even that is after a minute-long acoustic build before the key gets dropped down a step and the thrashing begins.

Perhaps the mystique surrounding Bathory in the early career was one of the many pioneering traits that Quothorn brought to the table, but Nordland I reminds you that behind all that, Quothorn was a fucking brilliant songwriter, and even the chance to spice it all up with production work several hundreds of times fancier then the basement 4-track recordings of Bathory's early days, the composition of the songs are still at the forefront. Which is really to the benefit of any metal fan who isn't too busy being an elitist to enjoy some great music. Quothorn and his unquestionably brilliant legacy will be missed.