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A destroyer caught between two worlds. - 77%

hells_unicorn, January 25th, 2012

One has to wonder if there is an actual cap on how many times a band can reinvent itself, or an individual musician for that matter. But apparently for Quorthon, this limit would be imposed on him by a short life rather than any shortcoming in his imagination, as he was all over the map between his various incarnations of Bathory and his solo project from 1989 to his untimely end in 2004. Within the context of a stylistic shift, his return to the studio after a 4 year absence (counting his 1997 album “Purity Of Essence”) can be most compared to “Blood Fire Death” in that showed a band trying to move away from a thrash sound and toward a Viking sound, but being more the former than the latter. However, the difference lay in what kind of thrash metal was being departed from, as the modern, raw, hardcore infused characters of “Requiem” and “Octagon” were quite different from Bathory’s blackened early days.

To put it plainly, “Destroyer Of Worlds” is all over the place. Some have rightly pointed out that this album could come off as being a compilation to anyone not familiar with Bathory’s work, with the exception of a largely consistent production character that is aggressive, but notably less raucous and low-fi compared to “Requiem”. The shifting back and forth between thrash, punk and Manowar influences is quite jarring, as are the seemingly random lyrical subjects that range from apocalyptic themes to ice hockey. But the musical back and forth between what sounds like a real attempt at reaching back to the same spirit that originally brought forth Hammerheart (and its technical predecessor “Blood On Ice”) and a slightly cleaned up version of 90s thrash that popped up in the mid 90s, is so blatant that it sounds like two different bands fighting each other, with a slight edge to the modern thrash metal sound when considering the majority of the songs, and the character of even the Viking oriented songs in comparison to both the previous incarnation of the band and the two “Nordland” albums that followed this one.

While a bit inconsistent in what genre this album is going for, this album is a fairly decent listen in terms of overall quality. Generally the longer songs tend to be more geared towards the slower, atmospheric aesthetic associated with the Viking era paradigm, largely coming off as a heavier revisiting of “Blood On Ice”. The opening “Lake Of Fire” and the closer “Day Of Wrath” are the strongest embodiment of that olden, “Into Glory Ride” sound where the acoustic guitars are massive yet distant sounding, layered over with droning choir lines and grooving riffs to create an image of grand mountains and crystal skies over a frostbitten landscape. By contrast, filthy displays of angst and violence such as “109” and “Kill, Kill, Kill” offer up an ugly reminder of where Quorthon had taken Bathory not too long before, though the production quality (especially the drum sound) is a bit more digestible and the vocal work is not quite as raw. “Bleeding” actually goes a bit further and combines the modern thrash character of before with some of the grunge elements of Quorthon’s solo work, sporting a verse riff that sounds strikingly similar to Alice In Chains’ “Them Bones”.

In terms of individual songs, this is a very strong album with a little of something for consumers of both of Bathory’s post-black metal eras, but as a whole album “Requiem” has the edge in terms of a consistent listen from one song to the next. It’s difficult to really fit together epic throwbacks to “Hammerheart” like that of “Ode” with a hybrid of early 90s Metallica and Pantera like “Krom” occupying the same album, and to this day it’s difficult for me to fully get through this album without thinking that some of these songs should have been separated out into a different album. Chalk it up to the paradox of going forward by taking a few steps back into the past, and also waiting for 4 years of studio silence before doing so, leading many to postulate that some of these songs may have been written years apart from each other. Either way, Quorthon never had a dull moment in his career, but this would qualify as one of his lesser appreciated ones, and in comparison to the towering masterpieces that it has to contend with, it’s easy to see why.