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The Valiant Pioneer Who Lost His Way For a Bit - 59%

bayern, November 20th, 2017

It was panful to see Quorthon (R.I.P.) of all metal artists wandering aimlessly through the 90’s and beyond, looking to hook himself to whichever metal current seemed like the big deal… The man who had laid the foundations for two wholesome genres within the metal field was roaming around in a hypnotized somnambul-like state, grabbing at anything that was floating nearby, trying some bashing old school thrash (“Requiem”) first to a mildly amusing effect, before flopping deplorably with the appaling, too-awful-to-be-described “Octagon”. The project he was running parallel to the Bathory career under his pseudonym wasn’t much to talk about, a vehicle for the man’s infatuations outside the extreme metal roster, but at least this stunt wasn’t an embarrassment…

Then things went back to normal with “Blood on Ice”, and it became only too clear that this was the sound that suited the man the most… then why the album reviewed here? Instead of destroying all competition at the dawn of the new millennium with another ode to the Viking Gods, our Swedish friend decided to mix it up by making allusions to all possible styles he had gotten involved with until that point, and not only, the resultant mish-mash an awkward and not a consistently enjoyable fare.

“Lake of Fire”, while being an imposing epic opener, is totally misleading as this isn’t going to be a faithful sequel to the preceding opus although the title-track still keeps the Viking doomy tension up with its officiant battle-rousing rhythms, not to mention “Ode”, a supreme elegiac doomster that must have been left out of “Twilight of the Gods”, also featuring one of the man’s finest vocal showings. If the rest of the album had followed this pattern, we would have had a minor masterpiece; alas, comes “Bleeding”, and this effort starts “bleeding” with some sloppily assembled thrash Quorthon, immediately after his notable performance behind the mike, following with horrible improvised raven-like croaks. The music starts making more sense later, but nothing above the mediocre output of hundreds of underground thrash practitioners from the 80’s.

Back to the epic doomy odes with “Pestilence” the listener still trying to adjust to this fairly uneven combination, and “109” may help him/her in this train of thought with its fast thrashing, headbanging riffage. Again nothing that wouldn’t be forgotten almost immediately to which “Death from Above” adds more with its misguided quasi-thrashy configurations which scarily remind of the disastrous “Octagon”. “Krom” is a short rock-ish non-sense again looking at the octagonal recording (remember the Kiss cover of “Deuce” on it), and from this moment onward the fans will start departing, also seriously pulled back by the groovy alternative charade that is “Liberty & Justice”. “Kill Kill Kill” is noisy industrial that would have sat well on Ministry’s “Psalm 69”, but here it simply doesn’t pair well with anything in the vicinity, least of all with the following “Sudden Death”, another pointless rockabilia nodding towards the Seattle wave (Alice in Chains, Soundgarden). “White Bones” is a confusing saga as it doesn’t become clear during its 8.5-min what exactly Quorthon wants to achieve with it; it is epic, is it progressive, is it doom, is it romantic lyricism (check the sprawling balladic epitaph), is it even some form of more ponderous thrash… it can pass for all of those, sounding like a very pale copy of the similarly-styled numbers from the gargantuan “Blood, Fire, Death”. No second guessing on the closing “Day of Wrath”, though, Quorthon wrapping on this amalgam the way he started it, with academic epic doom that will keep the fans nodding in uncertain approval for over 8-min.

Throwing everything available into the “furnace” has never worked, and it didn’t work for Quorthon either. The valiant pioneer from the 80’s was lost, condemned to a brief creative purgatory, conveniently started at the beginning of a new millennium when there were clear signs that the old school was going to come back to the front. Not the worst situation to find oneself in, but it was expected a lot more from the father of two genres as his enthusiasm about the restoration of the retro metal canons wasn’t very big at this particular stage. At least half the time is wasted in absolutely pointless references to the past decade having in mind that Quorthon has never fully belonged there, the thrashy outbursts having no nostalgic value whatsoever provided that there already were full-fledged tributes to the genre released. It’s only the epic Viking hymns that may capture the attention, but again with so much ballast thrown around the fan may have second, even third and why not fourth or fifth, thoughts before he/she sets his/her mind on wading through this very diverse, and not in such a good way for a large portion of the time, opus.

An identity crisis of some sorts? No, I don’t think so; not in this case. A careless nonchalant attitude towards the scene largely caused by the man’s sudden interest in music outside the extreme metal arena… Possible. Many would have packed up and left ages ago with such a voluminous contribution to the metal industry, bathing in underground glory by doing at the same time meaningless 9-5 jobs. No, not our hero; he wasn’t destined to lead an ordinary life. And he had to rise; again, but not with dubious, overblown musical mixtures of the dishevelled “anything goes” type, but by embracing his cultural heritage, and by sticking with it all the way to…

Two colossal odes to his homeland and ancestors was more than the fan could ask for. Quorthon delivered as his last contribution to the world he helped shape with so much vision, dedication, and manic devotion. He played The Wanderer for a bit, but it’s easy to act as such when you know that you would invariably appear, sooner or later, as The Victor on the other end.