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A man behind this project was always a person of mystery and uncertainty, but he must be praised at least for establishing (almost single-handedly, with respect to some defining points) a stylistic frame for many bands of diverse genres to follow. Although Bathory's discography consists of varying musical ideas and periods, it is undoubted that Quorthon's desire to compose music relied mainly on his pure enthusiastic eagerness and hostility towards any trends in existence. He just did whatever he wanted, keeping himself away from generally adopted rules, related to recording process and quality, vocal technique and so on. That is why all his work (especially Viking metal-era) should be treated by heart exclusively.
Traditionally labeled "Viking metal", Twilight of the Gods is hardly associated with this definition in my thinking. It surely displays some similarities to Falkenbach, Moonsorrow and others, influenced by Bathory, but to a lesser extent than, for example, Nordland I (an album with intentional folksy/pagan mood, something usual for Viking metal). It sounds like a slow Nordic heavy rock with highly hypnotic, even psychedelic atmosphere. Bearing this in mind, I suppose this record is closer to a mixture of doomy heavy metal like Manowar (Into Glory Ride-era) or Candlemass, folk-laden moments (acoustic and choirs) and even something reminding Pink floyd at times, then to actual Viking metal. Sounds ridiculous, but that is just the way I feel about it.
As mentioned above, this album is very atmospheric. There is almost not a single second to be found here, which would convince you into head-banging. Apparently, a prevailing idea was to provide a listener with images of Northern mystique and decadence, and a balladic nature of the majority of songs adds significantly in fulfilling that aim. Sometimes acoustic passages overwhelm actual electric guitar riffing, which definitely speaks in favor of the fact that Twilight of the Gods is an ode to classic guitar's majesty and the authors own fascination with Classical music in general (the last song totally backs that up). Some acoustic riffs are breathtaking and crafted exceptionally well; you may easily testify for that, when listening to "Blood and Iron" (also featuring very Pink floyd-like aura circa 7:14).
Compositional structures of the songs themselves are definitely sloppy and nothing was done to hide away that. Quorthon's epic pieces are simplistic, often entering "hit or miss" territory. Whereas aforementioned "Blood and Iron" is incredibly focused on beautiful melodies, a gargantuan title track drags on at times. It is like it had already exceeded its natural potentiality, but still the author wanted it to carry on instead of shortening it a little. Not to say that this song is stripped of decency though, it is very despondent and lyrics cleverly deal with anti-religion issues. The most unrefined song for me, however, is "To enter your mountain", lyrically again interesting and dedicated to non-conformity and individualism, but musically does not excite me that much.
Quorthon's clean singing proves to be the most controversial thing about Bathorys post-1990s works and especially about Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods (on Nordland he sounds surprisingly good). It will surely put off a lot of listeners as it is miles away from a smooth delivery of many melodic singers like Eric Adams or Messiah Marcolin. But I believe his vocals must be not taken so seriously. As I have stated in the very beginning, Bathory was about being genuine and self enjoying, rather then professional and complying with any rules.
If I am asked to pick up the best song on the album, "Under the Runes" is my choice. Acoustic guitar in the beginning is evocative, the main riff is very simple, but greatly tuned and catchy (a Finnish band Sentenced even used a reworked variant of this riff for their song "Nepenthe"). And an electric guitar solo in the middle is downright BRILLIANT. Period.
All in all, Twilight of the Gods deserves to be mentioned as a classic metal album. Despite having certain problems in compositional and singing departments, it owns that straight, underground appeal, which makes old metal so good.