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‘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/)