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Oh, those 90s. Nearly every metal artist of credibility running smack dab into an identity crisis, trying to decide whether he or she should 'go with the flow' or stick to his or her guns. Strangely, Quorthon is not an individual whom I would have expected to succumb to such follies, but yet Octagon stands as another bitter pill to swallow, and the absolute low point for the career of Bathory. Down from the mountains of the late 80s, to the sea level of Requiem and now fully submerged in mediocre riffing and writing, disposable vocals and elements that the Viking or black metal connoisseur of Quorthon's fan bast must have found tasteless and confusing. I can only speak from my own experience, but this album was an immediate shelfer, and if I hadn't been so materially inclined to collect the band's whole legacy, grounds for an immediate return.
Don't be fooled by the eight-pointed parallel to the pentagram on the cover, or the traditional font used in the logo here, this is NOT the Bathory you'd grown accustomed to and not something Quorthon has or will ever be recognized for, outside of the obvious chinks in his armor that it represented. I've seen a lot of tell about how this is the groove/nu-metal Bathory record, and while it drifts closer to that clime than any other, it's more of a failed attempt at modern and grimy thrash redolent of what Slayer were doing post-Seasons in the Abyss. You might catch hints of similar structures to those used by Machine Head, System of a Down or other tripe emerging out of the 90s, but Slayer is the perfect comparison for Octagon, since there are a number of riffs here that seem pulled directly from the Hanneman/King playbook. For example, the descending thrash rush in the opener "Immaculate Pinetreeroad #930". The mix of grooves and primal thrashing in "Psychopath" or the bridge of "Schizianity". Or how about the vocal architecture in "Sociopath"? Ring any of hell's bells?
Nothing is straight lifted, of course, but I felt as bored and irritated by this album as I had been underwhelmed by a Divine Intervention or directly appalled by Diabolus in Musica. It's not that Octagon wholly lacks a personality, or a few 'experimental' touches. For instance, there are a lot of dissonant passages embedded in the guitars, or stolid and raw post Helhammer grooves in tunes like "Born to Die" or "Schizianity", but the riffs are almost without exception predictably patterned to the point of no return. Not one charming, resonant vocal line or memorable guitar progression exists throughout the entire play length, and even when songs like "War Supply" embellish the neanderthal thrashing with noisier, infected atmospheres it still feels no more entertaining than a taut morning struggle on the toilet after a few bowls of bowel sluicing fiber heavy cereal. The only song here I can't say I totally hate is the moody, mid paced "Century" slugger which sounds like Hellhammer and 90s Slayer in a circle stroke. But it's not good, either...
The album ends with a cover of "Deuce" from KISS, but in all honestly this sounds nothing like any other track on the entire album. A straight hard rock version with slightly more crushing guitar production and Quorthon's wild, slathering rasped vocals, but contextually it doesn't fit in with the remainder of Octagon. By extension, Octagon doesn't fit in or belong to the remainder of Bathory's discography. Not because it incorporates unwelcome, unimpressive groove metal elements or terrible lyrics in tracks like "Psychopath" that feel like something an angsty teen would pen after being the last picked for volleyball teams in Phys. Ed class, but because it just fucking sucks. The songwriting is lamentable, the vocals pathetic, and all the lofty ambitions of previous (and later) albums are rubbed into the mire of contemporary industry driven revolt.
Requiem might have been the first case in which a Bathory album failed to inspire me to set someone or something on fire, or dream of the Eddas, but Octagon was the first and only that I want to run over with my fucking car. It's not clever, it's not funny, it's not interesting and it's nowhere near acceptable.
Quorthon’s excursion into the widely criticized 3rd era of Bathory is somewhat of a sensitive topic amongst the faithful, but nowhere is it near as uniform in its ambivalence than where the 8th album dubbed “Octagon” is concerned. Perhaps the big issue is that most choose to see this as either being a modern groove/thrash album, or as a really poor attempt at rehashing the blistering rawness of “Requiem”. While there are elements of both to be found here, there is a case to be made that this album is more suited to the extremities of the growing raw black metal school, but with stylistic quirks that point towards hardcore and modern thrash influences. Or for a less conventional title, this could be seen as an avant-garde blackened thrash album of sorts, though obviously free of all the ambient oddities the go with the first part of the hybrid style.
To be clear, the approach to production on here is comparable to the unfocused, decrepit character that generally tends to go with obscure black metal demos from a few years prior. The drums borderline on obnoxiousness in how loud and pervasive they are, particularly the popping snare which sounds akin to an exaggeration of what is normally heard out of grindcore bands and a fairly overpowering cymbal presence to boot. The vocals are also a bit loud in comparison to previous work out of this band, while the bass is virtually buried under the rest of the arrangement and the guitars vary from being in the background to fighting with the vocals for the 2nd most prominent spot. While this mixing approach does help to bring out the angst-drenched punk mentality that’s fueling the lyrics (some of which are about as gratuitously profane as the gibberish heard on “Suicidal For Life”), it is definitely understandable why most fans of Quorthon’s work choose this as their reason for dismissing this album.
But in spite of the obviously glaring air of inaccessibility that permeates the production of each song, I find myself drawn to a good amount of them. “Sociopath”, “GRCY” and “Judgment Of Posterity” reprise the Slayer on cocaine character heard on “Requiem”, but with a vocal character that is somewhat less agonized and more shouting in character. But even among some of the slower, Pantera-like material the creeps into “Born To Die” and “Schizianity” there is a charm to the repetitive guitar lines and Quorthon’s sloppy, heavily accent drenched ravings, even when the lyrics read like something out of a 13 year old kid’s diary. The guitar solo work, which occurs about as often as the typical Slayer or Cannibal Corpse album, is generally a one-dimensional flood of venting pentatonic shred licks and noisy whammy bar noise, but it fits in quite nicely with the equally simplified character of this album.
The best way to really qualify what this album is in regard to the rest of Quorthon’s discography is by an analogy to Bill Hicks’ famous meltdown in response to a heckler shouting “Free Bird!” by suggesting that Hitler was an underachiever. It’s something that would normally horrify a lot of even the most irreverent of comedy consumers, yet because of the context in which Hicks shouted it out, it was funny and in the minds of some, even appropriate. Nobody really thinks of it as Hick’s best quote or joke, but everybody has a place for it in their memory and has a moment in the course of their lives where they find themselves restating it. That is basically what “Octagon” is; a spur of the moment fit of enraged revulsion that inspires dissonance in the squeamish, yet a reserved nod of agreement from depressing cynics like me. And like the infamous Hicks rant, it definitely loses its effect when listened to over and over.
You see an album with good, interesting artwork and you think to yourself "Hey, maybe this isn't as bad as I may think. Maybe there is something worth listening to."
No. Not on "Octagon.” It's a trap. It lures the listener with a cool fucking front cover of a chaos star/pentagram drawn in blood on some blue stone and it exposes them to some of the worst retro 90's thrash you can imagine. I mean, I can expect this kind of shitty wannabe-thrash from a band like Chimaira on Roadrunner who took all the groove out of their music and wanted to attempt at thrash. I can expect Pantera trying their hardest to even make-up for releasing "Reinventing The Steel". Hell, I even expect modern-day Exodus for releasing this and having their record label hype the piece of shit up at the best thrash metal album ever even though that have hyped up every Exodus release since "Pleasures Of The Flesh" as the best thrash metal album of all time. But for Quorthon, this album comes off as nothing more than a cash-in on shitty fucking thrash metal.
The production is dry. It's clear but it's just dry. No bass. The drums can barely be heard. The guitars? Fuck that shitty guitar tone. It's so fucking stock-sounding. Everything about the sound production and style is just pure shit. I can express how goddamn awful it just enrages me to the point of nausea and headache. And let's not go into the lyrics. I mean Quorthon is no Shakespeare but goddamn bro....YOU'RE NOT 16 YEARS OLD. You're a fully grown adult. I mean just look at these lines;
"Conservatism. Communism. Paganism. Nationalsocialism
Liberalism. Satanism. Christianity. Slavery. Anarchy. Lunacy.
Insanity. Mediocracy. Assorted Century." - Century
"Authority. Society. Parents. Teachers. Employees and God.
Authority. Society. Parents. Teachers. Employees and God.
Fade into grey. Fade into grey. Fade into grey." - Grey
and finally the coup de' grace;
"Drink my cum. Take my rum.
Blooded hole. Twisted soul.
Eat my shit. Suck my dick. " - 33 Something
The songs range from wannabe-Dark Angel to wannabe Hardcore Punk in the way Pantera covered Poison Idea. More or less Corrosion of Conformity minus the Slayer riffs....wait, there are a lot of bad Slayer riffs that...god, what or who the fuck am I trying to explain this to? It's just really HORRIBLE fucking music. But beyond all that I have painfully described, the worst part of "Octagon" is Quorthon's vocals. Quorthon's vocals is a sign of a man who desperately wants his fame back and it trying to be cool with the kids in 1995, but unfortunately for him, nobody told him that grunge and alternaive was what the kids were banging then. And even in the extreme metal underground in 1995, the very music he helped created had already progressed to violent extremes and was on the beginning of a third wave of artists who were about to take black metal even further. The song titles themselves are fucking pointless; "Schizianity"??? Hey Quorthon, you may try to bash Christianity, but Trouble never had trouble coming up with material. Not to mention your attempt at trying to sound like fucking Dave Mustaine/ doesn't help.
Oh and a KISS cover? Fuck you Quorthon. That's all there is to say.
I cannot name one decent track on this album. Yeah it's that terrible. If you are a fan of Lamb of God, Chimaria, newer Exodus, or newer bands that are passed off as Thrash, you may like this....otherwise avoid this piece of shit album like an Egyptian plague.
It seems that Quorthon tires of one style and moves onto another rather quickly: with the first two black metal albums, the new two being an introduction to the Viking themes (and slowly losing the Satanic influences in favor for Norse mythology), the fifth and sixth albums being unadulterated Viking metal classics, and the next album being a somewhat overrated "return to form", Octagon tends to get little to no respect, and I really can't understand why.
This is raw, ugly and dirty blackened thrash, plain and simple. Anyone who would expect Quorthon to sit still and continue to ride out any of his eras for any limited time would be foolish.
First, let me say that while the production is dirty, it is very listenable. You can decipher everything that's going on, so this shouldn't be a complaint.
It seems that a lot of people would've loved for Quorthon to continue on the Viking theme, but as a musician, I believe he was prone to low attention levels at times, and this is proof of it. If anyone was hoping for the quality of Hammerheart or Twilight of the Gods, you're going to have to wait until the epic Blood on Ice and the Nordland releases.
But, the change in style doesn't make this a horrible release - on the contrary, it comes off as a breath of fresh air after having Thor's Hammer shoved down our throats for a while.
As for the album itself, overall it has a dirty feeling, which I can only attribute to the Motorhead influence, or a lack of money (I believe he was still recording the the garage / studio, so it makes sense in that context). The drums are a bit tinny, but they're still very listenable. And, unlike what other people want to say, the riffs are definitely there.
Quorthon's voice also seems to be a point of contention with many fans. I ask this: was the culture shock from Blood Fire Death to Hammerheart that bad? Did it make you hate Hammerheart? I agree, his vocals did change: for the better since the Requiem album. You can understand him - he pronounces the lyrics instead of making them into a long lost Viking warrior, or a demon possessed. They work. Keep in mind, his vocals changed many times; this is just another facet of his ability.
Musically, this isn't the thinker's album that the Viking trilogy (Blood Fire Death through Twilight of the Gods) were; this is simply a fun, dirty rock 'n metal album that is the meeting place between Quorthon (his "rock" band) and the many faces of Bathory. The music is a bit more simple - the guitars have more bite than flow and it seems a record for tossing on when you feel like listening to some good metal when you don't want to imagine the longships or Valhalla, To that effect, if anything, this is Quorthon's "party" album (sorry, but that's the only way I can put it).
Lyrically, we go all over the place. Immaculate PinetreeRoad #930 is about a kid who kills his parents with an axe, then kills himself with a gun. Okay, maybe "party album" isn't exactly fitting unless you're like me - if find the topic fascinating.
Charles Manson is also lyrical fodder (Sociopath)and John Wayne Gacy gets a turn as well (33 Something). Then there are the flat out "Fuck off" songs in form of Born to Die and Psychopath. Political statements come to play in Grey, Century and Judgement of Posterity (which, interestingly enough, could be a song an environmentalist could get behind).
The cover of Kiss's Deuce is interesting, but isn't really a favorite of mine. It's fairly faithful to the original (save for the vocals), but it just doesn't do anything for me.
Also, to the people criticizing the "immature" lyrics, I'd only have to point out that Swedish was Quorthon's home and more than likely some things were lost in translation. And, let's face it, Bathory and The Return were "marred" by lyrics of the same (or lesser) quality, yet that's both hailed as classics.
This divided a lot of the fans of Bathory back in the day as well. I think it's a good, solid metal album. When Blood on Ice came out, it was a masterpiece, but this is a damned fun listen if you like your rock and metal to be down and dirty and sound like something you could have some drinks to. It's not black metal, it's not Viking metal - it's simply good old fashioned metal played directly from the gutter and into your stereo.
I'd advise any fan to give this a fair listen, and to remember, this is a different beast than anything that came before or after.
Quorthon always wanted the best for the fans and when many of them wrote him because they wanted rawer black/thrash in the debut style, he tried to do it. The epic metal was, at the time, the best that was coming from Quorthon’s mind and I think he forgot how to do black, raw metal in a proper way. He was fixed on another genre and I believe it was a quite drastic and violent change. However, I find this album quite bad, like many here say. Yes, the peaks of the first three albums cannot be reached in this genre and this is just a quite weak sample of the old years gone.
Already with its predecessor, Requiem, the things were changing with a return to a more violent and brutal approach and now the things were exasperated. This is a blasting attack under the sign of the most raw and primitive sound; a quite immature and unpolished mixture of old school genres and, already from the opener, we can taste the essence of this album. The first thing you can notice is the ultra plastic/metallic production that gives the drums a fucking sharp and hammering sound. The guitars are the thing I like the most here because the distortion is fucking low and massive.
The structures are really simple and the drums almost cover everything in volumes. The vocals by Quorthon are far more childish than in the past. Forget completely the black metal screams because they are thrash metal in timbre with lots of influences from hardcore too! It’s so strange hear this stuff from him…”Born To Die” is even groove! The violence is, in this song, far less present and the tempo is slow. Damn, this song is quite terrible. The way he plays the guitars is very simple: the open chords riffs are the main technique and he borrowed lots of styles from Hellhammer band. The palm muting riffs are not so present.
Forget the goodness in a song like “Psychopath” because there are strange effects too and the whole track is just annoying. The vocals are simple, childish and almost intolerable. In “Sociopath” we return to speed and it’s a bit better but it’s like in the following “Grey”: he simple couldn’t play this genre; he wasn’t able, no more. There are even wa-wa solos and they sound incredibly strange for Bathory. Also the vocals patterns take lots of speed and timbres from hardcore/thrash metal and I’m a bit stranded. “Century” is mid-paced with more groove (it’s incredibly boring…) while “33 Something” shows ultra fast bass drum triplets and up tempo on the snare to return to dementia death/thrash.
“War Supply” and “Schizianity” are two boring, weak and totally senseless tracks. Quorthon seems completely drunk at the vocals and the slow progression is utter shit. “Judgement of Posterity” features a bit better riffs and some good structures but it’s not enough. This song once again slowly sinks into the limb of mediocrity also because it’s too long to contain three riffs and few ideas. It’s better to fly over the Kiss cover… I really don’t know what to say. Two or three riffs are not that bad but the rest is to throw away. Ok, you wanted to please the fans, but fuck. I’m sorry Quorthon, you just couldn’t play this genre anymore.
Sorry. This just doesn't do. 13 years have passed and this album still just points itself out in my collection. This is so to say, Quorthon's evil twin, making a pathetic attempt at thrash, utterly failing. This is supposed to be how Bathory should be remembered? The answer is very simple. No. This is just plain comical. Why? Let me tell you.
After the majestic and epic Twilight of the Gods back in 91', Quorthon decided it's time to make some great Scandinavian thrash metal attacks (or let's leave it at 'attempts'). So he went into his little cellar and records Requiem in 94' (after releasing two best-ofs with some unreleased tracks from the old blackish era). Requiem was actually not all bad, but still, very deceptive. Quorthon completely dropped the viking and epic themes he had adopted, for whatever reason he had, and moves to thrash. Now, thrash is a great type of heavy metal, just the thrash that you get on Requiem's follow-up, "Octagon" is simply downright stupid and lame. Riffs are almost completely ripped off and uninspired, resembling Slayer and early Sodom almost to, say, 80%. The problem is also, that the guitar tune and the recording itself is anything but thrash. It sounds like you would have taken the first Slipknot album or some other "nu"-metal abomination and sent it back to the 20s, recording tunes on a phonograph or something similar (by the way; didn't Slipknot actually adopt the octagon into their "Maggot-crops-overalls", or whatever they're called). The song structures are more boring and uninspired than a squished slug near a manhole. In fact, this is exactly what this sounds like: the soundtrack to a squished slug near a manhole on "Immaculate Pinetreeroad #930", because that's exactly where it goes. The sound on this is vastly inferior to his earlier works, with annoying hissing and dry guitar riffs overlapping themselves, resulting in a complete mess and cacophony. Actually I am beginning to think that this is a joke of the record label into tricking fans of Bathory to buy this atrocity under the name of Bathory. Or another possibility would be that Quorthon was completely drunk when he decided to spawn this. That would also explain the highly intelligent and epic lyrics: "Drink my cum, Eat my shit, suck my dick, [...] With every breath inhale the stench of lubrication shit and sweat.". And with every gushing sonic surge out of Quorthon's ass I descend further into a migraine state. There is simply no escape and less than 20 seconds on every song is enjoyable.
The reason this album still manages to reach a 33% is not because of me thinking "33 something". No, no, no. It's because of the cool KISS cover song "Deuce". I like the cover, it really has a dirty tone to it and gives it a really cool individual touch. Just download the song somewhere off the Internet and revel in it, but don't think the rest of the album is as cool as that song.
I wanted to start by saying that the most positive thing that can be said about ‘Octagon’ is that it’s not quite as bad as some people claim, but that would be untrue. If this had been a terrible first release from an unknown band it would be easy to dismiss, but as the seventh album in the mostly perfect Bathory chronology (yeah I know, the seventh – an octagon has eight sides, it doesn’t even make sense) this is one of those albums that it physically hurts to listen to. To this day I can’t even look at an octagon without screaming in despair and pummelling the ground with my bloodied fists, which is why they threw me out of the University of Sheffield’s conference centre. What an obscure joke.
While its predecessor ‘Requiem’ was content to replicate the sound of European thrash bands such as Kreator, keeping more in line with the evil Bathory ethos, this follow-up sounds like nothing more than a cheap and lousy attempt to imitate Slayer, and none of it works. Quorthon’s usually exceptional guitars are only decent when directly stealing from that other band, as is the case in ‘Century,’ and Vvornth’s drums have achieved the unfeasible and actually become significantly more annoying than on the previous release, starting the proceedings as they mean to go on with a far-too-long drum roll on some bins, or whatever it is he’s using. The production sound here is terrible – not good-terrible, like the early Bathory albums that reeked of an evil tomb, but practically unlistenable, and the double bass drums ticking away in the background almost sound like a CD fault. But most tragic of all is that the flaws can’t be placed solely on the production, but more squarely on Quorthon’s lousy performance, songwriting and lyrics.
While ‘Requiem’ attempted a sort of snarled approach to the vocals, here Quorthon opts for the singing style that worked so well on ‘Hammerheart’ and ‘Twilight of the Gods,’ where it didn’t even matter that he can’t sing. Here it matters a great deal, especially as songs like ‘Grey’ basically see him talking over fast thrashing riffs that should probably be conveying a sense of power and urgency, rather than a bored Swede spouting ridiculous lyrics like “your clothes will always bite big chumps right out of their concrete ass.” ‘Schizianity’ (nice pun there, Quorth) attempts something different, which at least shows some hope, but ends up being even less coherent than the rest in its near-doom style with the worst vocal performance of the lot. And there’s a Kiss cover that’s even worse than the original, figure that out for yourself. And now it’s in my head, goddammit.
This is a horrible album that should never have been released, but at least things only got better from here on, to the point where the final two Bathory releases rank among the best Quorthon would ever record. I love Quorthon, in fact he’s probably my favourite dead guy after Graham Chapman, but I have no idea what possessed him to release this. Certainly not the inspiring demon that influenced his classic early works.
Having given out my daily "zero" already, I can't possibly give a THIRD consecutive null rating to this album. It's not that bad... well, it's close, but not zero point zero level.
After listening to about 20 minutes of this, it dawned on me EXACTLY what this sounds like... the 1985 home recording done by Jeff Hanneman as a quick demo tape to share with his bandmates before they went in and formally wrote the songs to Reign in Blood. Note that that was a "quick demo", and is thus grim and kvlt. This is an actual release, and thus it gets no such leeway. It's SHIT. And Quorthon sounds exactly like Hanneman but with an accent. There's a good reason why Hanneman is not Slayer's vocalist.
The production is awful. Clangy drums, inaudible guitars... then the songwriting is also awful. Lots of bad Slayer ripoff riffs, and in fact this sounds EXACTLY like what would happen if Hanneman made a riff tape right before Divine Intervention. I won't even bother counting the exact moments where songs sound like Slayer songs... but I noted Hell Awaits, Temptation, Criminally Insane, Killing Fields, and that's when I stopped noting.
Oh yeah, some of the lyrics are just plain hilarious... "eat my shit! suck my dick!" Thanks, Quorthon. I can't really name any highlights of this album - to do so would imply going back to listening to it again, which is not something I plan on doing.
Geeeeez... I swear this album was released solely to prove that some people will buy ANYTHING with the Bathory logo on it. It really has to be some sort of sick joke on Quorthon's part. Now, I actually LIKE bad production, when it's done well, if that makes any sense. This abortion, on the other hand, sounds like it was recorded using homemade instruments fashioned from old pieces of rusty aluminium and driftwood, while the drum machine sounds a lot like, well, a rubbish bin. Probably the same rubbish bin Lar$ used on St Anger, in fact. The liner notes claim that it was recorded over a period of several weeks. The only explanation for this is that Quorthon painstakingly took his time to make sure it sounded as awful as possible, to make sure not a trace of atmosphere or anything remotely listenable appeared on the album.
I won't even bother breaking down individual songs, since they all sound the same. What we get is a monotone, pounding machine rhythm with some horribly played half-assed thrash riffs being belted out while the formerly-invicible Quorthon delivers a bunch of moronic "social-conscious" lyrics in a voice that resembles an angry drunken sailor reciting a monologue about his health problems. There is literally no variation here, no interesting riffs, not a shred of anything that made Bathory's previous efforts so great. Even Requiem, which is quite mediocre, shits all over this from a great height. Then, just as you think it can't get any worse, he pukes up a cover of Kiss's "Deuce" that manages to sound even worse than the original. Yep, that's right, a Kiss cover that sucks more than Kiss. Words cannot describe how pointless this album is. But still, i've done my best, in the hope that I can save some unsuspecting new Bathory fans from wasting their money on this.