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Fire On The Mountain - 75%

Buarainech, January 31st, 2014

Few Heavy Metal albums released in 2013 have had as much hype as this one, and with the combined veteran experience of Nick Barker (Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Brujeria, Lock Up), Patrik Lindgren (Thryfing), Frode Glesnes (Einherjer), Rune Eriskon (Mayhem) and Alan Averill (Primordial) that hype is well-reasoned. I never caught any of the shows the band did in 2010 as a Bathory tribute act, but I don't think I was alone in expecting a continuation of that for their debut album of self-penned material. Early on from those who heard the record in advance I was told to expect a wholly different beast however, one that paid tribute to the highest of the Metal gods.

Destiny Forged In Blood” secures this assessment by laying the foundation of the first 3 Manowar records and Judas Priest from Sad Wings Of Destiny through to Screaming For Vengeance that make up the bulk of this band's influence. Alan may cry “This is our heathen Metal call to arms!” in the chorus, but a Norse/Celtic Pagan Black Metal hybrid this is not. Instead this is a template of the basest form of Heavy Metal- textbook, standard stuff.

Straight away though with “Children Of Cain” there are cracks starting to appear. Off-key vocals are par for the course for Alan Averill to anyone who is familiar with his work with Primordial, but at times on this track they sound plain weak and poor. The other element of course he brings along from his Nemtheanga persona is the deep lyrics, which sometimes strike the mark but oft-times on this record seem ill-fitting as well. One thing that can't be denied is the attempt made to branch out vocally, firstly by singing in a higher register as standard on all tracks and on this number especially hitting the high notes. It's certainly impressive for a man usually noted for his gravel-toned performances, and though I understand that flooding the album with moments like that would have made it hard to replicate live these high screams are something I'd love to hear on future recordings.

None too subtle nods to Udo Dirkschneider and Rob Halford are attempted and succeeded by Alan on “Fire On The Mountain” and “Preacher Man” respectively whilst instrumentally some Dio-era Black Sabbath and a few Bathory “ooooh-ahhhh!” choruses begin to creep in. The influence from Heaven And Hell/Mob Rules goes balls out on “Sword Of Damocles” before the last 2 tracks creep steadily away from the commercial hits of 80's Heavy Metal realm with touches Mercyful Fate and Candlemass contributing a fair dose to the makeup of “The End History” whilst “At Dawn We Ride” is as close to recent Primordial as it is to the preceding tracks on this album. Even then, in what should be this outfit's comfort zone, it feels a little like painting by numbers- proficient, ticks all the right boxes yet somehow still just a little uninspired.

I expected this album to give a little more with each listen, but rather than finding nuances to lose myself in I noticed each return less enjoyable than the last. I'm not suggesting at all that this is a bad album, in fact, the very opposite is true. It is just that with their peers like Argus and Atlantean Kodex outdoing themselves with their carefully crafted and endlessly pored over records this year this effort cobbled together during the downtime from the members' “main” bands just can't hold a candle. Without meaning to denigrate what they have made here, can we really hold Twilight Of The Gods to the same standard as longer-standing bands who can spend 3 or more years making a record as best as it can be? In the face of competition like that this can't help but sound a little bit predictable. Fire On The Mountain is something to build on, but the standard for this style of music is so high right now that it will take a lot more to create something truly monumental. [7/10]

From WAR ON ALL FRONTS A.D. 2013 zine- www.facebook.com/waronallfronts

Destinies Forged in Blood - 75%

GuntherTheUndying, December 18th, 2013

Twilight of the Gods is a side-project based on the works of Bathory and Manowar, led by many veterans of the black metal sphere. Former and current members of Primordial, Mayhem, Lock Up and others make a bold journey of metallic glory throughout "Fire on the Mountain" despite the musical shift to traditional ground. Once a Bathory tribute group, Twilight of the Gods made the switch to original material somewhere down the road. "Fire on the Mountain," the group's first release, is quite a substantial product. Nothing flashy or extraordinary on the musical end other than the wonderful vocals of Alan Averill, and that is absolutely fine. Sometimes old-school metallic whippings with explosive choruses work just fine, and that's the fundamental principle of "Fire on the Mountain."

This, at hindsight, will probably seem like an insignificant record. The songs are all basic in how they are structured, running through simple riffs and huge choruses that together aren't foreign at all to the works of Manowar, Bathory, even some Dio/Rainbow if you use your imagination. Largely a mid-paced experience, "Fire on the Mountain" has the color of an old-school heavy metal record with modern production values, stylistically applying epic atmospheres that entwine with the patriotic musings of Manowar. The songs really aren't unique or incredible, but they are fun and bombastic, and that consistency is what makes the record a joyride into the land of steel and fire. Just a stockpile of rudimentary traditional metal qualities that are cliché, but appropriately cliché.

Alan Averill shouting diatribes about the glories of metal only adds fuel to the blazing inferno started by Twilight of the Gods' flammable musicianship. Averill, transitioning here from black/folk metal bard of Primordial to leader of a classic-esque group, is predictably a world-class singer in this setting, though far from his musical home. The somber, ethereal chimes of his Primordial works are, of course, passed over for vocal patterns and tempos more akin to the works of Dio or Quorthon's last few recordings. In the end, Averill's vocals are the A1 sauce while the remaining slab is more of a decent steak cooked just right. Nothing but good times within "Fire on the Mountain," unless you like Five Finger Death Punch or crap like that, and if that's the case then you are false and cannot entry.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

Twilight of the Gods - Fire on the mountain - 75%

Radagast, December 6th, 2013

‘Fire on the mountain’ is a CD that comes with a strong pedigree, and as such a lot of hype. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with black metal will know an experience, proven line-up like this when they see it, and their origin as a Bathory tribute band is only like to raise expectations further.

With all that said, none of it really serves as a good barometer for what the CD actually sounds like. Rather than attempting to create a ‘new’ Bathory CD, Twilight of the Gods’ assembled black metal legionaries have instead decided to make an epic metal CD in the traditional sense, in the process channeling a great deal of their boyhood influences rather than anything from their own previous projects.

Some of the middle-era Bathory style is held over admittedly, particularly on the longer and more sonorous tracks, but just as frequent are short songs built on brief, punchy riffs and crowd-pleasing choruses that are drawn more from early 80s Black Sabbath and even Manowar on the more over the top efforts.

It may come as a let down to some black metal fans, but it’s definitely very interesting to hear such well-regarded musicians stepping out of their respective comfort zones like this. Nick Barker in particular seems to enjoy getting to switch off blast-mode for a while and play something a little looser and more spontaneous. His playing probably still displays more pure technique than feel, but the rolling, Brian Downey-influenced, fills on the likes of “Preacher man” fill the gaps between the chords gloriously and serve as an injection of extra exuberance.

Similarly, for 2 men well-traveled in the field of guitar dissonance, Blasphemer and Patrik Lindgren show off some nice traditional metal chops, their solos melodic and sweeping while they keep the riffs choppy and simple. Admittedly it sometimes feels as though the riffing is just a little too bare-bones, and the production is perhaps a bit stiff and lacking in warmth, but the overall package doesn’t suffer too much for it.

The biggest point of interest of course was always going to be vocals of frontman Alan Averill, who has been doing the whole ‘black metal with clean vocals’ thing quite masterfully for many a year now. Transposing his wonderful, soaring voice onto more stripped-back, galloping soundscapes sounds like a match made in heaven, and he doesn’t disappoint. Forgoing the tearful, raging melancholy that he normally employs in Primordial, he instead adds a bit of brashness to his always recognizable voice and even throws a few falsettos into the mix as well. He also seems to be having a lot of fun with the lyrics, with a few true metal pastiches mixed in with more serious historical pieces as well.

At 42 minutes and 7 songs, ‘Fire on the mountain’ tends to rush past, but it feels like a perfectly judged package rather than a quickly thrown together one. Despite some weighty historical topics in the lyrics, the overall feeling it invokes is one of joyful celebration, and Twilight of the Gods have managed to crack the tough nut of making an old-fashioned metal CD without sounding either like a bald rip-off or a smug joke. It isn’t a classic by any stretch, but it is certainly one of the more distinctive and sincere heavy metal CDs of 2013.

(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)

This is a Heathen Metal Call to Arms - 81%

TheStormIRide, October 8th, 2013

Formed in 2010, Twilight of the Gods was initially a Bathory cover band, starting off their career by performing a set of covers each night of the 2010 Heidenfest European tour. Twilight of the Gods consists of international members who have spent time in or are still in some of metal's biggest acts: Frode Glesnes of Einherjer on bass; Nick Barker, formerly of Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and just about every other band imaginable in the live setting, on drums; Patrik Lindgren of Thyrfing on guitars; Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen of Aura Noir and Mayhem on guitars; and Alan Averill of Primordial on vocals. The band eventually decided to release an album of all original material, which became 2013's “Fire on the Mountain”. Even though the band opted to do original songs, everything is still partially influenced by Bathory's epic and viking metal material, but rather than a full on epic viking metal assault, though, we're greeted with a huge injection of throwback heavy metal, with leanings towards the very foundations of the genre itself. Indeed, the entire offering seems to have more in common with Manowar and Manilla Road than anything else, but that is certainly not a bad thing.

Any band that starts as a Bathory cover group and then retains even a tad of that said Bathory influence on their original material is going to, no doubt, be compared to Bathory. Any band that has a super group line up will, no doubt, be compared to the members' other bands. It's just the nature of the beast when it comes to the music industry. Rest assured that, even though the members have some serious pedigree in the black and death metal scenes, this is far removed from that sound and only resembles Bathory in the soaring and epic song structures, melodic guitar segments and vocal patterns. “Fire on the Mountain” is basically a traditional heavy metal album in every sense of the phrase, as this has just as much to do with Manilla Road and Manowar as it does with Bathory. I guess there is a common thread throughout each of those bands, but let's delve into the sound of Twilight of the Gods debut album rather than skirt the issue any longer.

“Fire on the Mountain” consists of mid-paced, traditional heavy metal anthems that have a decidedly eighties feel to them while still sounding modern. The guitars consist of a lot of forceful yet simplistic power chord strikes and chord progressions. The guitars are somewhat thin in the production, having little force when compared to the thunderous rhythm section. The bass lines fall directly in line with Einherjer's last album, with a continuously plodding, almost galloping approach at times. The drums make extensive use of deep toned floor toms, giving a very rolling and thunderous sound to the low end. Twilight of the Gods mixes this thunderous, plodding assault with the soaring melodic guitar passages of the viking era of Bathory, giving an extremely epic feel to the music. These melodic passages stick around for a few bars before falling back into mid paced plodding again. Occasionally, some snappy melodic lead lines flow over the plodding. The leads are tasteful and avoid being overly pretentious. To name drop a bit, Twilight of the Gods basically sounds like the tempos and timing of “Guyana (Cult of the Damned)” style Manowar combined with the soaring structures and melodies of “Hammerheart” era Bathory.

This sounds like a dream come true, for me, because I love Bathory's epic styling and I love the manly, machismo of early to mid period Manowar, and “Fire on the Mountain” is able to combine both of those into a cohesive album that still has it's own distinct flair. Unfortunately, not all is perfect here. As I said the guitar lines are somewhat weak. I love the thundering rhythm section but without tons of amazing riffs to counter that, it's hit or miss. That's not to say there aren't any strong riffs, as the main riff during “Destiny Forged in Blood” argues strongly against that, but there's a lot of sections that lack force and oomph. It could be that the thin guitar tone is the drawback, but, whatever the reason, the guitars fall flat at times. “At Dawn We Ride” showcases this problem fairly well, with the guitars being practically drowned out by the thundering bass lines. I can tell that the guitar lines are good, but you have to strain to hear it. Honestly, more strong riffs would carry this album to a higher level, but as it stands it feels almost incomplete at times.

The true standout on this album is the vocals: Alan Averall's approach here calls to mind Quorthon's clean style on later albums combined with a less nasally approach to the vocals of Mark Shelton. The vocals are extremely solid, with a forceful mid range that fits the epic nature of the music like a glove. Listen to vocals on “Sword of Damocles” or “The End of History” for a quick fix on his ability to imbue that old school traditional feel while not sounding dated or modern. The vocals do seem to be an acquired taste though, as the first couple of spins they didn't really click with me. After repeated listens the rough styling completely grew on me, almost with the kind of charm that Quorthon's vocals had. The only place that still doesn't sit well with me is the spoken section during “The End of History”, which feels like the band is trying to pound a square peg into a round hole; it just doesn't fit.

This album was more of a grower for me. I was a bit underwhelmed at first, but repeated listens flushed out more nuances that I found to my liking. “Fire on the Mountain” is an epic and traditional heavy metal album in every sense that the description entails. This album could fit alongside the likes of Manilla Road and Virgin Steele without looking out of place, but it could also sit nicely beside “Hammerheart”. If you dig traditional heavy metal with a penchant for epic song structures, check this out. This isn't the greatest album in the style, as it does have its flaws, but it's enjoyable and will definitely be seeing some rotation on my end. I could see Twilight of the Gods improving upon this formula drastically, but it's a solid debut that I recommend to fans of the genre.

Written for The Metal Observer:
http://www.metal-observer.com/