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Bathory's "Twilight of the Gods" is an absolute gem and a landmark in the historical development of black metal. It continues with the unique style of of epic Pagan metal first heard on "Hammerheart" and develops it to full fruition. Although common by now, back in 1991 no one else was playing music remotely like this. The path that groups like Burzum and Emperor would later take - rebelling against traditional song structures and creating adventurous sequences of complimentary musical passages led by guitar melodies instead of vocals, owes much of its inspiration to Bathory's 1988-1991 creative peak. Beginning with "Blood Fire Death" and culminating on "Twilight of the Gods", Bathory introduced the concept of epic grandeur into black metal music, altering its course forever.
This is considered by many as one of Bathory's "lightest" releases, a description that has always mystified me. To my ears this is one of the most sincerely heavy albums ever created - maybe not in terms of tempo, surface level aggression or musical flash - but definitely so in terms of the emotional weight of the music. Some would even argue that it isn't even black metal due to its reliance on slower tempos, acoustic guitars, and clean vocals. However, the common traits of all great black metal - mysticism, Romanticism, and adventurous song structures are all present.
"Twlight of the Gods" begins with an incredible title track, possibly Bathory's finest hour as well as one of the greatest songs in the entire black metal genre. The first half is focused around a "Hammerheart"-paced slow, heavy groove accompanied by backing choral voices. The song gradually builds in intensity like a slowly spreading fire until around the nine minute mark, when it abruptly fades out into an acoustic interlude, gradually building again into one of Quorthon's trademark guitar solos - slow, tasteful, and passionate if not overly technical. The last third of the song is mostly acoustic, the sound of the world gradually coming back to life after the flaming destruction of an apocalyptic conflict, or perhaps just an epitaph.
Although none of the other songs on the album are as good as the opener, it's far from being a one hit wonder. Most of the following songs are around the 6-7 minute mark, driven by the same sort of slow and heavy riffs that characterized "Hammerheart", although this time around, there are gentle acoustic guitar melodies played simultaneously over the heavy riffs. This gives a great dichotomy and distinct identity to the music, and helps tie the longer songs together. Many bands, from Satyricon to Agalloch are doing this now, but it all began here. Some of the best of these can be heard in "Blood And Iron" and "To Enter Your Mountain".
Drumming is straightforward but effective - simple rock grooves that follow the music and do not embellish. It doesn't feel like a drum machine, but it doesn't feel 100% natural either. It's most likely a heavily triggered kit, or some V-drums being played. As a drummer, I would have preferred to hear a more organic drum sound to fit the music, but I'm sure Quorthon did the best he could with the means available.
We also see Quorthon's strongest clean vocal performance, much improved from "Hammerheart". He'll never be known as a great singer, but the unseemly nasal rasp of his performance on "Hammerheart" has been cleaned up and he sounds more confident and mature this time around. Not only the singing, but the lyrics being sung are better than anything before - Quorthon obviously put a lot of time and thought into the lyrics, writing not just the usual fantasy material but a relevant warning of what happens when the world abandons the old ways. It's honestly quite rare to see lyrics of this quality in metal, especially from someone writing in what is not their native language.
Overall, this is an incredibly reflective, passionate and mature album. Many listeners, having heard nothing but juvenile nonsense performed under the banner of Pagan metal, may find the more highbrow and adult nature of "Twilight of the Gods" boring at first, but with age and maturity they will no doubt come into a greater appreciation of its subtle beauty.
It should also be warned that this is an album that you really have to be in the mood to enjoy. Sit down and give your entire attention to it when listening. It's not the kind of thing you want to spin in the background or put a few songs on a playlist; it's so ponderous that it really demands ones' full attention to be appreciated. Although it's one of my favorite black metal albums of all time, second only to "Hvis Lyset Tar Oss", there are some times when I put it on, get a couple minutes in, and just say "no, not now" and throw on something else. But when one is in the proper receptive mood for it, there is almost nothing better.
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.
I worship Bathory. They were one of the finest bands EVER and for sure I can admit that the first six (the Great Six) albums, which Quorthon has composed and recorded were unique and perfectly magnificent pieces of metal music. And the fact that Bathory has been changing the sound and style so much between all these records doesn’t break that impression. At the same time I must admit that “Twilight of the Gods” is also the last Bathory record, which I truly, deeply worship, as I am not so enthusiastic about either “Octagon” or “Requiem” and then the last three full lengths (“Blood On Ice” and “Nordland I & II”) are OK, but don’t match the quality of the Great Six at all.
But that’s another story, for another review, here I am going to write something about “Twilight of the Gods” – LP, which once more proved that the music of Bathory is eternal and matchless. Obviously it will be pointless to compare this sixth LP to the trilogy of first three albums of Bathory, as musically and lyrically they’re just totally different (but all amazing in their own way). You all know that with “Blood Fire Death” and “Hammerheart” Quorthon has started his Viking trilogy, but even when we compare “Twilight of the Gods” to “Blood…” the difference in the musical direction is quite huge, but at the same time I feel like with this album Quorthon has reached the peak of what he intended to achieve in his Viking trilogy and completed something truly unique and awesome. And he did so by composing the most easily listenable and almost progressive rock metal music, which could have been a great disappointment for the fans of Bathory’s earlier albums, if it wasn’t for the fact that the feeling, the atmosphere and the composition on “Twilight of the Gods” remained absolutely fantastic. And even if this LP isn’t aggressive at all and is so melancholic and catchy, it still catches my heart every time I listen to it.
I mentioned that the album is easily listenable… it damn is. It is almost radio friendly, if only radios were playing long, melancholic metal songs. Quorthon has really changed the basics of his songs on “Twilight of the Gods”. First of all he concentrated on the clean vocals in the entirety of the album. Sure, he has already used them a lot on “Hammerheart” (another album I worship), but “Twilight of the Gods” is devoid of any more aggressive vocals (and riffs). But it is not a failure, as Quorthon has had really fantastic voice, which fitted the epic music perfectly, so I cannot imagine now “Twilight of the Gods” without such style of singing. It just wouldn’t sound right, especially as the music is also sometimes way different to the previous albums. Forget any black metal riffing from “Under the Sign of Black Mark” or sharp, thrashing pieces from “Blood Fire Death”. This is truly epic and impressive playing, based mainly on the acoustic guitar, which basically fills the entire album, playing along the electric guitars just like bass and drums. And I wouldn’t even be surprised if “Twilight of the Gods” was actually composed on the acoustic guitar… Anyway, the final result is truly amazing. These acoustics give the album a special sombre feeling; they add to it some kind of folk music touch or the classic progressive rock feeling. All in all they also make the whole sound less aggressive and more easily understandable, clearer and thus I think that even those, who don’t like the metal music would like this album, especially as it is filled with many hooks, memorable, heroic, catchy choruses and almost melancholic, sad, yearning feelings. I must admit that “Twilight of the Gods” is in my opinion by far the most epic and most majestic album in the history of metal music.
And to start your album with 14 minutes long epic tune such as “Twilight of the Gods” is something what only Quorthon could have done. This song alone – with its prologue and epilogue - for sure is one of the highlights of this LP and perfectly represents the entire album, as it just has everything what makes “Twilight of the Gods” to be such a significant, unique LP. Plenty of long, instrumental passages, including some acoustic pieces, many epic and majestic riffs and totally possessing chorus part… and of course that fantastic clean singing of Quorthon. He may be playing one motif (killer riff!!!!) for most part of the song, but the way it is arranged and composed, with all those acoustics and everything else around it makes it sound just impressive and involving. It is just a delight for my ears and I love the way the songs are structured, how they progress and build the atmosphere and the whole tension, not just within one song, but also through the entire album. When holding the lyrics sheet and reading the texts it is again almost like a journey through the distant past years (although the title track tells more about the modern days I think) and if you close your eyes you can almost see these landscapes and visions, which Quorthon described in his lyrics. Fantastic feeling. And the music is just spotless, as all songs from side A are just impressive and faultless, starting with the epic opening anthem through “Through Blood by Thunder”, which is almost like a rage and more angry track and to “Blood and Iron”, which may be the least favourite of all three songs from side A, but which brings some memorable moments as well, especially the impressive opening theme has stayed in my mind.
But side B has even more killer tunes starting with “Under the Runes”, which is based on a riff, which sounds like a hard rock riff, but played in more epic and majestic way. Then we have two excellent pieces “To Enter the Mountain” and “Bond of Blood”, which are the quintessence of Bathory on this album. And finally the whole album finishes with “Hammerheart” and this epic tune surprises a lot. It basically is a classical music theme titled “Saturn”, originally composed by an English composer Gustav Holst, to which Quorthon added the vocals… and well, well, the final effect is thunderous. It is just an epic tune, very sad and it almost sounds like a farewell – and it was supposed to be one, as “Twilight of the Gods” was meant to be the final Bathory release (and when listening to “Requiem” and “Octagon” I wish it was). Just as I always get quite nostalgic and emotional when listening to “Song to Hall up High” from the previous LP, these same feelings come back with “Hammerheart” and words like “…Now that the wind called my name and my star had faded now hardly a glimpse up in the empty space and the wise one-eyed great father in the sky stilled my flame… The vast gates to hall up high shall stand open wide and welcome you with all its within and Oden shall hail us bearers of a pounding hammerheart…”. Hail Quorthon!
Standout tracks: “Twilight of the Gods”, “Through Blood by Thunder”, “Hammerheart”, “To Enter the Mountain”
Final rate: 90/100
Over the Christian skulls, and through the waves, to Grandfather Odin's house we go. Twilight of the Gods, the 6th Bathory full length, would see the Swedes' transition to full-on Viking folk metal completed, and all within the span of a year since Hammerheart. Not that this would be the last evolutionary stage for Quorthon, who will continue to place the band on divergent paths through the mid 90s, but I don't think anyone could question that a good number of his albums from the Blood on Ice era and beyond felt like reiterations of the concepts and atmospheres he originally explored on the Viking 'trilogy' of Blood Fire Death, Hammerheart and this Twilight of the Gods.
This chapter is by far the most accessible in all of Bathory's history, and that's due to the high levels of friendlier rock polish in both production and composition, plus Quorthon's decision to focus almost exclusively on a cleaner vocal tone. Personally, I was saddened at this fact when I first purchased the CD, because I did rather admire the coat of grit he had applied to its predecessors, since all but abandoning the snarling and rasping pandemonium of the early albums. As I've mentioned, I find the man's pure singing voice to be inconsistent at best, as he was never blessed with the broadest range and seems to often stumble over his accent, but even at its worst there is a particular character to his floppy, cutting tone that is easily distinguishable from anyone else (sort of like the charm one might find in 'Engrish' bands, though this is not of grammar but delivery). He can hit a certain thread of melody in "Twilight of the Gods" or the soaring symphonic anthem "Hammerheart" which proves he's no hack, but there are a number of passages throughout this album, like the slovenly verses of "To Enter Your Mountain" in which further refinement and editing should have been mandated.
Musically, the focus is all on slick, clean and catchy chorus sequences and simple flowing rock chords, supported by choirs not unlike those found on Hammerheart. Bathory was no initiate to the use of the acoustic guitar, but here it was most heavily implemented as a base component of the musical landscape. It's nearly everywhere, and tracks like "Under the Runes" and "Blood and Iron" wouldn't be the same without the brooding, folksy undercurrent it creates. So much of the album is slow that it reminds me of a Viking Pink Floyd. Perhaps not so psychedelic, unless you're a raven or six-legged horse, but certainly as airy and atmospheric as that comparison would imply, with an assured, steady flow to the music that centers heavily on the simplicity of the rock chords and the flow of the vocal arrangements. The aim was to appear glorious, and even though this is far from a personal favorite in the Bathory repertoire, that end result is not one I could ever deny.
I almost wish that the use of voices here had been restricted to the choir sequences, though, like the drudging harmony used in "Blood and Iron", because when Quorthon breaks away for the lead vocal lines they often feel relatively shabby and off-kilter. With Hammerheart, I felt as if the man were riding some squall on a dragon ship and beseeching Ægir to let he and the crew pass the towering torrents around them, but here his presence seems to break up the smooth flume of the musical procession and there are cases like "Through Blood by Thunder" where he just feels like an emo suffering from a hernia. I found my earlier exposures to the album grating at best, especially in such spots as this, but through the years I've at least learned to tune them out and just focus on the underlying music, which, while rarely exemplary, at least serves for positive background noise to atavistic ruminescence or dorkier pondering. Though interestingly enough, there's a slightly contemporary slant to the lyrics (in particular the title track).
Ultimately, it's a good album, but not a showcase of Bathory at peak performance. I do like the meandering, fell majesty and tribal power of the drums, the constant kneading of the acoustics into the roiling, simplified chord structures and the sobering choirs, but at times I feel as if they're all being conducted by a drunkard. Still, this would be the safest to share with your dad, uncles and granddads over a mead. But your mom will still hate it. I can recall that this was supposed to be one of several swan songs for the band. It's solemn disposition certainly reflects that finality, and I'm sure that there are a great many Bathory fans who wish it had been the case, judging by the divisive reactions towards its successors, but it's not as if all the ensuing efforts were total refuse. Twilight of the Gods should be judged as the album which plied the safest waters in terms of a general audience, but it was quite risky at the time for the more specialized metal audience who at the time might have been more desiring of heaps of entrails and Satan. But then, they had Deicide (and many more) to whet their carnal appetites.
Twilight of the Gods was the sixth full-length album from Bathory, released on Black Mark Productions in June 1991. This was originally meant to be the final chapter of this band's career and shows even more classical influence than on the previous album. The title comes from Wagner's opera, Götterdämmerung. Recorded at Montezuma Studio in Stockholm, Sweden and produced by Boss, this record continues the sound that had been developing on Blood Fire Death and Hammerheart, while adding in yet more new elements. It is somewhat difficult to label this as a Viking Metal album, as it represents a bit of a departure from the atmosphere and approach of its predecessors. There are traces of modernity within the lyrics and musical arrangements that simply do not fit well. It also lacks any sense of aggression, content to move along at an almost relaxed pace, throughout. Even the production is very smooth and rounded-off, with no rough edges remaining.
It was back in high school when I borrowed this album, on cassette, from a friend of mine. Along with The Somberlain and Where No Life Dwells (from Dissection and Unleashed, respectively), Twilight of the Gods remained in my tape player for quite some time. Over and over, I listened to this release, until the unthinkable happened: some of the tracks began wearing thin and the magic wore off. After repeated plays, inconsistencies were more noticeable. From lyrical themes to riffs and song structures, this turned out to be Quorthon's own Ragnarök, for some years.
This majestic album starts out with the title track, which is introduced by a sombre guitar melody and the sound of the north wind blowing cold. The drums burst forth from the silence, pounding steady and giving the feeling of a war march. The build-up is accompanied by an acoustic guitar, taking its time to let the listener drown in his own anxiety and eagerness to see what happens next. Once the main riff comes rumbling through, joined by a backing choir that adds a dismal atmosphere to the already-epic masterpiece that is slowly unfolding. The music is mid-paced and carries a feeling of doom. The lyrics go along with this, yet once one takes the time to pay attention, it is clear that the theme deals with modernity rather than the distant past, which takes away from the overall effect and makes it more difficult to enjoy. The arrangement is somewhat monotonous, but the lack of dynamics actually helps the song out. The final couple minutes feature a lengthy acoustic passage, along with the return of the bitter cold winds.
"Through Blood By Thunder" picks up where the first song left off, opening with more freezing winds and a clean guitar section. The main riffs are mid-paced, as would be expected, and the aura is still rather sorrowful. Quorthon's clean vocals have developed a little more and, while still kind of an acquired taste, he seems to have more control over his voice at this point. Still, the vocals are buried in the mix, probably to hide any weaknesses. The riffs are heavy and epic, and though it is not the strongest track on here, it is very solid and memorable.
The next song also starts with an acoustic guitar. "Blood and Iron" might have been better off if placed elsewhere on the album, as there is no real logic behind lumping together three songs that all start out in such a similar manner. Unfortunately, the sound here is almost reminiscent of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive", and the comparisons with that poser outfit are not limited to this song, alone. Thankfully, once the song progresses, it moves far from this mild similarity and the heaviness of the guitar riffs and the thundering drums is enough to crush your skull into a fine powder. The lyrics, again, move from themes of the past to modern topics, making mention of space exploration and so on. Things like this really work against the material and make it difficult for the listener to really get lost in the music. There is still a rather sad vibe here, but the presentation does not really do well to convey the true sense of hopelessness that Quorthon may have been going for. Overall, this song does not live up to its potential and is far too soft.
"Under the Runes" seems to be a favourite among fans and it is no surprise, since it is the catchiest song on here. Regrettably, it has to be said that the structure and melody of this tune appear to have much more in common with mainstream music than Viking Metal. The sound is more akin to some 80s Rock band, like the aforementioned group, and the atmosphere kills what little momentum the album had by this point. The solo work is decent and the song could have been something better, but Quorthon had lost his focus and one should not be surprised that this was planned to be the final Bathory record.
Yet another acoustic guitar intro starts out "To Enter Your Mountain", and remains even once a somewhat heavy riff emerges. The atmosphere is really much too light, as in weak and bright. This is not as dark as it wants to be, and the sound is quite soft and has more in common with fluffy morning clouds than a harsh and rugged mountainside.
"Bond of Blood" comes along, quite late in the album, attempting to salvage things. This is, certainly, the darkest track on the record. An earlier version of this song can be heard on the Jubileum III compilation, when it was titled "In Nomine Satanas" (of course, another coincidence related to Venom). Perhaps, the Satanic content of the original is the reason for the darker tone. As with the rest, this one is slow and plodding, managing to retain some heaviness despite the weak production. The lead solos add so much to the song, creating a dark and melancholic vibe. This is, easily, the best and most memorable track on here. The epic quality is not ruined by the lyrical themes, which are vague and yet also seem more focused on what one would expect.
"Heading north after long a journey
We have sailed for so very long
Heavy seas endless sky above us
Heading north going home"
The final track is "Hammerheart", which utilizes music composed by Gustav Holst, from his Planets Suite. It is not terribly dark, yet there is a sadness that cannot be denied. Listening to this in the years since Quorthon passed away makes one hope that he had more of a connection to these lyrics than he let on, at times. At least, it is what many among the Bathory Hordes would like to believe. It definitely would have served as a suitable way to end a career, as it possesses a certain feeling of finality.
Twilight of the Gods is highly regarded, yet it is an album plagued by weaknesses that get more and more difficult to ignore, as time passes. There is only one original composition that is not dragged down by its flaws, while the rest of the material wallows in mediocrity and is destroyed by inconsistent songwriting. The best moments are among the most epic and majestic in Metal history, but the low points are horrendous when one considers what this band was capable of. It is fortunate that Quorthon redeemed himself, a decade later, with the Nordland records.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
The final chapter of any saga is ultimately where one’s steel is truly tested, regardless to whether one be an instrumentalist, front man, songwriter, or in Quorthon’s unique case, all of the above. While a number of great bands have misjudged their own longevity and elect to fissile out over a slow period of decline, the true greats take their final bows right at the zenith of their respective careers, even if one could potentially could put out more works that are still marginally good. But in the case of Bathory, a resurgence of unexpected vigor and vitality resulted in a career that went on more than a decade from this, the intended closing of the curtain on a brilliant and innovative career. To put it mildly, this is the greatest conclusion that turned out not to be.
“Twilight Of The Gods” is the ultimate example of where an album can be epic, and not have to serve any other purpose. While stylistically most of its emulations differ greatly, this colossal congregation of massive atmospherics, majestic acoustic guitar lines, thunderous guitars, bombastic drums, and all the imagery of frost covered landscapes and dragon boats approaching the shore to boot is the archetype for what many Viking oriented black and folk metal outfits from the land of Norse exploits have become known for since. Take Manowar at their most stripped down, battlefield laden, true metal greatness, subtract the speed metal and the mid-tempo NWOBHM influences, and what emerges is a tower of an album casting a shadow engulfing all in its wake.
Within the misty landscapes of the album’s opening trilogy, which was actually compressed into a single song on the album’s 2003 reissue, is the testament of unfettered genius at work. With winds blowing and a distant cry of a clean electric guitar drone that bears some similarity to ones heard on “Hammerheart”, the spellbinding adventure that is this album’s title song kicks off with a blast loud enough to parallel Thor’s hammer striking down a legion of giants. The moods switch between nostalgic and fearsome, with dense acoustic and distorted guitar voicing that meshes brilliantly with droning chorus line that trades blows with Quorthon’s rough edged and dirty lead vocals. Things come to a head somewhere in the latter half of the song, just before the guitar solo where a gratuitous bass shred fest that was obviously paraphrased from Joey Demaio’s extended repertoire signals where this song owes its origins to, while simultaneously pointing out how far Quorthon has refined the concept.
As the rest of the opening trilogy unfolds, it becomes apparent that keeping the ideas interrelated and minimal is one of the biggest draws to this otherwise ambitious endeavor. The 2nd chapter “Through Blood By Thunder” begins on a restful guitar drone before launching into another dark and heavy onslaught of trudging grooves at a punishing slow tempo, and like most middle movements of a 3 part series, is the shortest and behaves more like a bridge for 2 more ambitious extremes. “Blood And Iron” contains the most memorable elements of the song, particularly the easily recognizable acoustic theme that sort of comes and goes amidst a sea of thudding guitars that literally sound deep enough to make Zakk Wylde take notice.
While the first 3 songs found on here definitely can stand on their own and sum up the nature of this album, it is easily rivaled by the equally chilling follow up in “Under The Runes”. With an intense mixture of acoustic and electric themes that almost seem like a slowed down answer to “The Call Of Ktulu”, this thing manages to be the catchiest number to ever come out of Quorthon’s catalog. The tendency is towards a vintage 80s sound, yet at the same time it hints at a coming end for this style of song, as if Quorthon himself is predicting the eventual death of the 80s with the rise to prominence of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and others at around this time and has translated it into a swansong requiem for a time when music was capable of being sorrowful and passionate without being cynical and a complete drag.
The remnants of this album’s contents largely draw a similar picture to the 4 instant classic preceding them. “To Enter Your Mountain” has more of a folksy, almost slow dance nature to its acoustic themes, amid a the heavy riffing and gravely shouts. “Bond Of Blood” plays up the heaviness a bit more and sounds closer to an all out doom metal song with a slight bit of epic detailing, in much the same fashion as some of Manowar’s more menacing slow songs. And the closing rendition of Holst’s “Hammerheart” is a surprising change of pace with Quorthon actually trying out an operatic baritone with a synthesized orchestral accompaniment to close out an album more characterized by roughness than restfulness. It’s a fitting end, yet an all but completely unexpected one as well given Quorthon never sounded so brisk and clear while at the microphone.
This is an album that is defined by embracing an extreme, and though its greatness is obvious to anyone who goes for atmospherics and triumphant themes, its polarizing nature is equally as obvious to any casual observer. While this spits in the face of common radio oriented music, it also is about as distant from the vile extremes of what defines black metal ala Sodom and Venom as can be without crossing into the world of hard rock. It will likely be doomed to an existence of semi-obscurity despite its impeccable brilliance, in much the same respect as Manilla Road tends to be. But anyone who can take the slow tempos and the unorthodox production is recommended to part with hard earned dough in order to experience Quorthon’s second brush with perfection.
"Twilight of the Gods" kicks in after a minute of silence. After that minute of silence, your soul is his for the taking. When he returns it to you, you'll be remade as a man, as a human being. Take my word for it.
Quorthon is genius and we weren't expecting to find that out so late in his career as a musician, I mean, he alone, meaning Bathory alone, created (almost) everything black metal is about. And dropped out of satanic metal, years before everybody else start to copy his techniques. Then he decided to create another metal genre. Let's call it....epic metal. More of a genre derived by thematology and feeling than musical forms, but nevermind. What did you say? Manowar? Oh c'mon guys. Manowar are good. But we're talking Ragnarok, Haavamal and golden halls here. Stay in school, Yank.
"Twilight of Gods" is the third and final part of the metal Haavamal, and, if you ask me, it is even better than the previous two ("Blood Fire Death" and "Hammerheart"). Fullest of feeling and dramatic sounds, fullest of ground-breaking melodies and those wonderful, out-of-tune, "oh oh oh" vocals (intro on "Through Blood By Thunder"). Anyone familiar with the band's music is unlikely to be disappointed by this, because "Twilight Of The Gods" is Quorthon's most mature and complete musical creation. More melodic than the other two albums, but more driven and clear in its purpose. What purpose you ask? The purpose of making you understand what this whole Valhalla thing is about.
Because you see, Quorthon knows that all this thematology is a myth. He doesn't to pretend to be the mightiest Viking warrior around (Amon Amarth-fucking WHO?), he just traces the myth up to its source and produce some ideas and theories about yourself and the world, derived from the Viking culture. Just read the lyrics of the title track-but do it cautiously. He is even talking about spaceships and technology, he is just making connections and metaphors to the Viking culture and mythology to make you understand his point of view about today, about existence.
So the next time you will let this one spin on your deck, have in mind that it's not supposed to be "Viking metal". It is sophisticated, cultured, socially, politically and emotionally touching music. Head to toe, beginning to end. Quorthon was not great because he was the toughest satanist around, then the toughest axeman around. He was great because he never took any of this seriously, but rather used it to deliver his message to the world. His message about innovation, insight, personality and human existence. But what is wrong with me and I started using past tense? Quorthon never actually died.
…It might cost you much too much!
Man, does this album rule. It’s my mystikal kvlt master Kuorthon, in all his over the top and kickass glory! I can’t go as far as saying it’s his best, because finding Bathory’s best album is like finding CoRn’s worst—there are just so many! However, you don’t suffer a stroke while trying to find Quorthon’s magnum opus as much as you would risk yourself when trying to find Jonathan Whinyes shittum faeceus. So, along comes “Twilight of the Gods”, which is just a little bit short of a complete masterpiece.
Overall, though, this is undoubtedly Bathory’s most melodic piece of work. Acoustic guitars (no pointless noodling though!) are found everywhere, and then they suddenly change into distortion, while keeping that same catchy melodic riffing! That’s right, whence Quorthon’s earlier albums were good because they were so brutal and evil and kvlt, everything starting from “Hammerheart”, with the exception of “Requiem” and “Octagon”, is awesome because it’s fun and catchy. Yes, Bathory as a fun, catchy, melodic band, but retaining its overall awesomeness; it’s not very far from being Iron Maiden with silly vocals if you ask me (that’s one huge compliment for Quorthon, really).
Some people might kill me for this, but “Twilight of the Gods” is closer to the power metal spectrum of metalness, than to the Viking/black/other Bathory genres. Beginning with the title track, with its perfect mix of dirty/clean distortion/acoustic intro, then it explodes into a bunch of chords and the titanic (can’t find other words for it) drumming behind. “TA-tatata-TA-tata-TA”, and then the whole thing evolves in an awesome slab of heavy fucking metal with Quorthon’s instantly recognizable voice doing choruses, in such epic fashion that everything including my existence on earth and the universe itself seem to vanish due to the sheer fucking greatness of how that song goes along. Yes, it’s THAT good. Just when you think your head is about to blow up, the verse kicks in, with a vocal melody so out of this world, and every hit of the drums pounds your head like a shovel directly into your skull. Lyrics such as “Holy writings/ hokus-pokus/blaze of glory/ and crucifix/TV-preachers/and dirty tricks” make me think of Helloween for some reason; but leave that to me, I’m way too over ecstatic with this song.
So, some people don’t like the vocals; probably because Quorthon, in a way, can’t do clean vocals for shit. You know what? I don’t give a fuck! I don’t care about how many notes he can hit; if I wanted that I’d listen to “The Sentinel” by Priest. No, what is so great about his voice is the sheer emotion contained within. Matt Barlow? He ain’t got shit over Quorthon, even if he misses the chorus’ notes “It’s the Twilight of the GOOOOOOOODSSS!!” enough for the cats to come join him in; you just feel the passion within the man’s voice. You can feeeeeel the man is clearly struggling, singing his ass off! And that, for me, is much more important than anything else. What’s talent without passion? Quorthon may not have talent for singing, but damn does he try, you can almost take the exact frame where you feel his heart is going to come out his throat…THAT my friends, is what heavy metal is all about (and Aces High).
Soon after that, there are a bunch of even more epic choruses, and it suddenly fades away in a very beautiful melodic passage right at the end; a very brooding, dark, and perfectly fitting acoustic guitar melody. Take notes, countless proggy bands! 13:10 mark, damn me if that’s not emotion, fellows. Can you imagine? That was just the first fucking track, out of 7, and I already feel great! Who needs pot when you have Bathory? There's only one track that sounds a bit forced, like if it's there to make the album longer, and it's "Hammerheart". It's from classical composer Gustav Holst, but it sounds like The Lord of the Rings movie soundtrack or something of the sorts...It's not bad, but you know, this album is so great that having there at the end is ludicrous, because it's nowhere near as epic as...everything else on here.
”…For as long as the grass grows, for as long as the stream flows…”. Next track ahead and it already begins with such a speech! Well, “Through Blood by Thunder” is nowhere near as epic as the title track, and stuff like that holds the album back a lot, if it weren’t for that cool solo at near the end, and “Bond by blood!”. I guess Quorthon knew that if he put fucking “Blood and Iron” after “Twilight of the Gods”, his listeners would have a severe case of the deads, although that would be a great way to die. Really, “Blood and Iron” has the best acoustic intro I have ever heard from a song, maybe there are better ones that I can’t think of right now, because that melody at 1:14 is distracting me with its “Hey! Look at me you moron!” nature. That one alone is packed with more emotion than a bipolar person, but then it explodes a minute later, with a mid-paced, yet headbangable riff! And some seconds after, the melody returns in a great way, before this cool riff comes in; that kind of stuff is where my “Bathory sounds like power metal at times” thesis comes from. My only trouble is that there is not an overtly emotional sounding vocal piece like before, but my feelings change when the acoustic melody makes a final appearance near the end. It’s like hypnosis.
“Blood and Iron” finishes and it leaves you kinda void, but when “Under the Runes” comes, which, if not for the Spinal Tap-folky intro, and Quorthon’s trademark voice, I would almost confuse it for an 80’s W.A.S.P song, or something similar. The main riff has “glam” written all over it, and the snare drum just gives an arena style vibe that I can’t deny; you know, with all the reverb and “tutu-TAAH”…Yeah, that. That’s the ‘bad’ part, if you think there’s anything wrong with the main riff sounding ‘glammish’. The good part though, is that it fucking rules! That guitar lick at 3:32 is especially awesome, with a very cool melody, which then transforms into a majestic solo, and just after that, the vocal melody…Fuck this; it sounds like hair metal, and those last verses near the end make me feel Quorthon’s gonna go “Through L.A’s sunset strip, she’s just 16 but I’ll make her screeaaam…Thank you Detroit! Good Night!!” Just let me find the puffy hair and the makeup; oh how I would make fun of it if it didn’t kick such brutal amounts of ass.
So, it’s Quorthon’s experimentation with lots of acoustic passages, power metal elements, slightly less complex song structures (compared to earlier outputs), and random glam metal thrown in just for the hell of it. Oh yeah, and he writes lyrics about Vikings fighting stuff. It’s like a collage of stuff thrown in that end up making sense, and Quorthon is one hell of a songwriter, making some of the most complex vocal melodies this side of Fates Warning! Everything’s here, catchy songwriting, beautiful acoustic passages, monumental riffing, even more monumental guitar soloing (5:18 mark during “Bond of Blood”), emotional vocals, and Vikings. Do you love it? YESSS YOU DO!! This is one of Bathory’s essential albums, and I guarantee you won’t regret buying it. Unless, you know, you don’t like anything of the stuff I just mentioned; in which case you should stop listening to metal right now and move to something safer, like, I don’t know, knitting?
Say what you will. This album is nothing more (or less) than a polished continuation of Hammerheart. Songs on this album could have easily fit on the previous effort if it had had the same production, and more important, slightly rawer vocals.
Therein lies the biggest difference. Since ‘Blood, Fire, Death’ Quorthons voice became cleaner and more melodic with each album. Is he stretching it on ‘Twilight of the Gods’? He is, actually. The possibility of enjoying the vocals here is purely a matter of taste. For the fans of more extreme metal his voice is too mainstream here. For those of you who like strong melodic vocalist, his performance is often out of tune and sounds rather forced. You cannot argue Quorthons creativity but the performance is debatable.
A real weakspot is the last song which has ‘filler’ or ‘experiment gone wrong’ surrounding it all the time. The song ‘Hammerheart’ is an old orchestral piece over which Quorthon has decided to sing. The idea of course is really great and would it have been a great vocalist or even a (real) male choir singing, it could have sounded great as well. Quorthons shortcomings as a melodic vocalist however become painfully obvious here. But hey, who can blame the man for trying. Some of his most classic ideas and songs have been the result of experimenting or just doing ‘something’. He can’t be right all the time, right?
Unlike ‘Hammerheart’ this album has a lesser amount of classic songs. Especially the titletrack stand out and the pounding “Blood and Iron”. Especially the spoken words section with the distorted guitars and acoustic guitar on the latter is of such beauty. I cannot imagine a viking metal collection without this mighty song.
However. This majority of the album is still extremely heavy. Turn out your lights, light some candles and put on the album at a high volume. The difference in loudness between the intro and the titletrack is so big, when the drums and distorted guitars finally make their entrance, it’s like a bomb falling into your room. So damn heavy! Don’t forget buy some red wine (or better: Mead) and invite a pale skinned maiden. With this album filling the soundscape and some candles you can make some really heavy love.
The biggest problem with ‘Twilight…’ compared to contempory artists, modern viking Metal bands or other Bathory releases is the simple fact that for some viking Metal fans this album can be a bit too polished and not ‘dark’ enough and for the more melodic minded folks still a bit too much on the heavy side of metal with, as said, vocal weaknesses. If you’re really into Bathory however you’ll feel this album is just another great one and slightly less trendsetting or classic as its predecessors.
It goes without saying that Hammerheart and Blood Fire Death were not just some of Bathory's greatest works, but also for the subgenres of Viking and black metal. Both albums saw explorations in neo-classical composition, acoustic interludes, clean singing, and a lyrical base revolving around Norse mythology. Supposedly, Twilight of the Gods was the creme de la creme of this style. It topped both albums in its towering scope, showed a big step up in Quorthon's skills as a guitarist and songwriting, and was hailed as Bathory's most "epic" album to that point. While it certainly lives up to its nature, it walks a fine line between epic and cheesy.
Now, on a basis of musicality and composition, this release is fucking ace. Powerful, driving sections of sustained power chords are backed by slow powerhouse drumming, which gives the music a seriously mountain-like atmosphere. The riffs in these sections are straight-out epic heavy metal with some folkish feel. These passages are drawn out just the right amount of time before it can be labelled as repetitive, and they often lead into solos or acoustic passages. It's the moments like these on "Under the Runes" and "Through Blood by Thunder" that help the album out immensely. Quorthon's shredding neo-classical solos provide plenty of epic ear candy, and the acoustic guitar passages that open and close the title track are nothing short of jaw-dropping in their display of musicianship and atmosphere. Things are layered very wisely; the electrics are backed by acoustics for climax and power, or vice versa. Layers of deep baritone vocals are used on "Through Blood by Thunder" and "Hammerheart," the latter of which is a totally neo-classical work that gives the album a sense of closure.
And now comes where I flame this album. Quorthon's vocals are fucking horrid. His clean singing was tolerable on BFD and Hammerheart; the former, because it was the first attempt at doing such, was traded with the harsh screams, and was kept to a bare minimum; and the latter because it only served as another tool of the music. But here, he actually tries to be a lead vocalist. The bad thing is, I believe the man actually convinced himself to think he was a good vocalist. His lower range singing isn't too bad; a little rough, but it suits the dramatic tone of the music perfectly. The choir effects on the closing track are rapturous, and "Blood and Iron" is probably the best song on the album vocally. It's the songs like "Under the Runes" and the title track that will make you cringe in disgust, though. Quorthon attempts (I emphasize the word "attempt") to go above his range, and fails horribly. Sour notes, lack of emotion or charisma in the voice, and a nasally, strained voice. It seems like Quorthon is attempting to size himself up to a band like Manowar; and while he may surpass musically, the vocals damn near ruin the songs. Upon first listening, I just took it as an acquired taste. But the more I listened and dissected the vocals, I came to the conclusion that Quorthon struggles to maintain competency throughout the album's course.
The lyrics do help things out a bit, though; the larger-than-life feel of the music coexists perfectly with Quorthon's lyrics focused around Norse mythology and Viking lore. The title track takes a different stance on things, though; it almost seems like a social satire. There are plenty of lines to chant along to, and some moments when used in the context of the music will definitely raise some horns.
This is one of the only Bathory albums that really didn't do it for me. The music is damn genius: epic, atmospheric, and ballsy with tons of guitar virtuoso. Unfortunately, the vocals will probably make your nutsack shrink in horror. Sorry guys, I'll stick with Under the Sign of the Black Mark.
While I do like Bathory very much, I have to admit that I'm not Quorthon's greatest fan. I enjoy all his Viking metal releases and his black metal ones as well (hell, I even like "Requiem" to an extend), but he rarely released anything I was completely satisfied with. It's not that I found any faults in his music, it just didn't touch me where it should. Don't get me wrong, the man sure was a genius, spawning two entire genres on his own, but I never quite grasped the brilliance (which is undoubtly present).
Things changed with "Twilight of the Idols" though. It might be a calm and restrained album, but it manages to be atmospheric, epic and beautiful while it still pounds your head in with slow, heavy riffage. Quorthon's vocal performance is probably the strongest in his career (only rivalled by the "Nordland" albums), his voice just fits so well into the musical compositions.
The album is filled with sombre acoustics and stomping rhythms. The use of acoustic guitar on this release is fantastic and especially shines in the title track, "Blood and Iron" and "Under the Runes". A few songs contain narrated passages which fit so surprisingly well that you wouldn't want to miss them at all, the drumming is meaty as hell and supports the rhythm section tremendously - the production on here is simply the best that Bathory ever had (including the "Nordland" albums).
Yes, I'd take "Twilight of the Idols" over "Hammerheart" any day. It might not have its bite and hints of aggression, but improved songwriting, better production, better vocals and more atmosphere.
Locating flaws on this album is pretty difficult, but maybe Quorthon's vocals, even though they are very strong overall, do sometimes sound slightly out of tune and too strained (best example - verses of "To Enter Your Mountain") but that is just a minor quibble.
I recommend this to all fans of Viking and Heavy metal. It's an essential listen.
If you're new to Bathory's music, stay away from the releases after this, as a mediocre era began after "Twilight..", but somehow, the late Quorthon managed to recapture the Viking metal spirit in the Nordland albums, but sadly we won't be able to hear what the guy had in mind.
Yes, I am a sucker for atmospheric music. But this music is more beautiful than anything else Quorthon has done. Ever. Crystalline guitar passages flow like clear northern rivers over the massive, booming drums, and are accentuated by acoustic passages both within and without the regular passages. The singing is often done in a more baritone voice than on Hammerheart, though it's still obvious it's the same person singing.
The production is probably the best among the first era bathory releases (1984-1991), but still bears many similarities to Hammerheart. The main differences are in the snare, which is A LOT more echo-y, and the guitars, which are more transparent. The whole production is drenched in reverb, which could end up in a mess, but Quorthon keeps it simple here, and creates a masterful production that envelopes the listener and leaves him/her with a feeling of awe of the power of the gods.
And yes, this release is slow. It is content to stroll along at a doom-like pace through most of the CD. This can be construed as a metaphor of pessimism for a world that is in its last throes, though, in all honesty, it's more likely just a way of keeping things "uncluttered", as it were. Whereas Hammerheart (the album) was more focused on the vikings themselves, the imagery of this album is more of the vikingland. The lyrics are even better than Hammerheart's, with vast imagery and attention to the natural elements. It describes the exploits of the vikings with more attention to the surroundings, which paints a much better picture. And the music is a lot more grand and epic than Hammerheart, though, in the process, lost the intensity of Hammerheart.
However, it does have intensity in this release, but it's saved for the symphonic closer (which is actually a cover of Gustav Holst's "Jupiter", but with viking themed lyrics.) That song makes up for ANY shortcomings the rest of the album has, and is the song I want played at my funeral.
What are these shortcomings? Sometimes, this album can drone on. The songs are long, and slow, and often (in songs like Blood and Iron, Twilight of the Gods, and Bond of Blood) a non-avid bathory fan can get bored.
However, I cannot make a review of this album without mentioning Under the Runes, which I feel is the strongest song on this album. Words do not describe it. It's just awesome. The acoustic intro is mystifying, and the rest of the song seems perfectly executed.
One thing, though, is that this album isn't for everybody. Those looking for intensity, look elsewhere. Those looking for speed, look elsewhere. Those looking for clean sounding drums, look elsewhere. Those looking for palm muted riffs, look elsewhere. This is all about being big and epic
"Twilight of the Gods" is Bathory's most relaxed record. It's strolling pace reminds one of "Hammerheart" but lacks little of the two-fisted fury that made that record such a grooving and ominous piece of work. In fact, this record seems almost content to slide along melodically and tell it's stories in an almost melancholy manner that never pummels or shakes. The record is filled with moody acoustics, Quothorn singing as Quothorn does and the music slides sad epic after sad epic of world demise. This is a powerful record, but not a record that ever really "rocks". The Viking-rock becomes metaphor for a world that is dying
The opening "Twilight of the Gods" is a rather powerful introductory track that sticks in the mind and shows Quothorns ability to write a sombre epic. "Under the Runes" is a controversial bit that musicall stands as one of the mans stronger tracks. "Bond of Blood" has rather macbre march to it that mixes the choirs a bit better than some of his other epics as well. Much of the record though follows a pattern of acoustic opening and mid-paced middler that really doesn't excite as it should. Nothing here is heavy, but nothing really is catchy either. The songs create a great atmosphere but don't work as individual songpieces the way that many songs on earlier records do.
Bathory are at their most atmopheric here but not their most memorable or exciting. It's not poor, but it's not great by any means either. It's here not there in the concept of heaviness and it's not truly the most epic work aside from the title track either. Bathory would start to crack and shift here into something that was less than pleasent and this record, while still good - marks the downfall of the project.
For all Bathory fans and fans of Quthorns epic works...I'd check this out. Those of you looking for excitement can look elsewhere as this record has none.
A follow up album to Hammerheart, very epic indeed, and with wonderful musicianship involved, as always. A worthy album for it's predecessor.
The album indeed starts out with an eerie wind atmosphere, it slowly adds up to loud guitars and depthy drums, very powerful indeed. The first song, I think is very great, the weakest part is probably Quorthons vocals, which maybe could've been a tad louder, and maybe better sang? Not sure, the rest of the song is just amazing work, in my opinion. Very atmospheric and somewhat doomish. It's 14 plus minute length seems to fly by as you sit and enjoy the music, it fades out with great acoustics and atmospherics (the wind.) You can practically see the mist.
The album in itself is a very epic piece of work, often overlooked when compared to Hammerheart, but the whole mood is different I think it's so full and powerful. The solo's and drumming and everything just adds up into a huge masterpiece, I think. I know I am repeating myself, but it truly is an album you should sit and listen to with closed eyes, unless reading the lyrics, which adds a great effect to your imagery also.
Indeed an album to pick up and checkout, whether you are into this sort of thing or not. Stand out tracks? All of them, but really I would say "Blood and Iron", "Under the Runes", really all of them.
The lyrics are somewhat different on some of the lyrics, mostly though they stick to the epic "Viking" style lyrics, which some anger in here and there towards present time people. I think Twilight of the Gods, the song at least was somewhat comparing today with long ago? Maybe I am just way off.
Indeed a great album to pick up, I think, so powerful and full of atmosphere, and just damn good music.
Slow, atmospheric and ominous are three keywords in describing the sound Quorthon achieved on Twilight of the Gods.
This was at one time meant to be the last Bathory album and as hinted by the title there's an overhanging sense of gloom prevalent on nearly all the tracks. But amidst the despair one should rightly experience while listening to an album named after the end of the world lies the epic sound we all know and love from Hammerheart.
The songs are slow, often very repetitive but invariably lead up to majestic passages such as the chorus of Blood and Iron; that very line repeated over and over again.
Those passages are sadly less overwhelming than on Hammerheart and that, coupled with the more sombre atmosphere present here makes Twilight of the Gods the lesser good of the two in my opinion. Make no mistake, this is “viking metal” at its best and a couple elements are actually superior than on its predecessor:
1) Quorthon’s vocals have improved. He’s still pretty far from being a good singer though, but that’s a big part of the charm.
2) The acoustics are godly! Listen to the intro to Blood and Iron (I mention this particular song once more for a good reason: it’s the best on the album) for example, great sense of melody on display here.
The lyrics still focus on vikings, although in a less overt way than on the previous two albums. Productionwise this album is very good compared to most other Bathory releases, allowing all instruments to be heard just fine. The vocals might be a little low in the mix though.
In the end this is nothing but a mandatory purchase for everyone into the more epic, slow side of metal. Everyone else is advised to listen before buying, recommended tracks are Through Blood by Thunder and Blood and Iron although they’re all good. The last song, Hammerheart, is based on Holst’s The Planets with lyrics by Quorthon.