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Shields I have crushed with my sword - 100%

DreshZone777, May 12th, 2017

Nordland II rocks considerably harder than their predecessors, like Destroyers of World, which, although bearing a good number of excellent songs on it, seemed to be thematically and musically inconsistent, with no discernible rhyme or reason to their ordering. Not so with this record which virtually every song on this disc is cut from the same epic vein. This helps the album maintain a steady flow throughout its duration, making it undoubtedly, one of the most consistent record in Bathory's discography. Listening can prove a chore for the impatient fan, but the attentive listener will feel the brooding atmosphere seep into their skull by the third song. This album builds on the sonic landscapes presented in albums such as Nordland I or Blood On Ice, but also somewhat throwback to an older sound. It is a beautiful, rich combination of wonderful music and poetic lyrics that make sense.

Nordland II, as the album title says, is the second part of Nordland saga, and therefore it shows again the epic viking ambient and Nordic nature. It's a very good record with a lot of guitar riffs, plus great drum that adds an invaluable worth of basic instruments, and everything accompanied by keyboards that show a great job in making music, totally atmospheric. Quorthon's voice is in form, never fast but always trying to give that message of majesty in the stories narrated. As if it were something planned, this album goes very well for the end of Bathory's life chapter, simple act of complex life.

The album begins with "Blooded Shore", this one opens up with a fairly northern riff and some work from the choir, Quorthon gives us a nice piece of guitar-driven music. His vocals are pretty much same as always, although he may be at his finest on this song, he sings it all pretty aggressively, although we're talking clean vocals here. No more black metal screams of old. "Sea Wolf" is another highlight which has some nice folk-style keys throughout and again utilizes the choir sounds. Then "Vinland" opens up with sounds of sea/ocean, and kicks into possibly the heaviest and most crushing riff on the entire record. I'd also say this is the single best guitar performance on the album, it includes some orchestral sounds and the best chorus on the album. Quorthon's vocals are nearly as strong as good here as on the second track, but this is probably my favorite one.

Though it's less extreme than its beginnings, this is a more polished, elegant, gleaming pagan metal. This album has a lot of main riffs that are very strong and crunchy, and the choirs are once again, used in the background to give the song some substance. Through verses, Quorthon almost sounds like he wants to give us some black metal vocals, but maintains a very raspy version of clean singing. You can tell he's really into the lyrics, by the way he forcefully delivers them on this album, the songs are carried by the verses and the bridge, which are very dark and almost black metal oriented in itself. Admittedly, there is some keyboard work here that feels somewhere "norse", and the choir kept to still project the viking metal style.

The shocking reality and quality of his lyrics and music are awe-inspiring and just plain good. Quorthon being the only consistent member of Bathory throughout the band's tenure since 1983, he has been the only solid part of this band and all credit goes to him. The only disappointment being that he couldn't continue to make brilliant music. Do you want Bathory? 'Hammerheart' and 'Twilight of the Gods' or 'Blood on Ice' are still remembered as untouchable? Nothing I do will make you remember the past? Well, let's go to the past, fuck. That's what Quorthon thinks, and he does, the icon can't stop being an icon. Before Bathory's last war cry, the father of black and viking metal, the master of shadows, says goodbye of this world, that so much has contributed to metal. His gift: "Nordland II". A good sequel/saga that you can find in the genre. Admiration forever.

A worthy way to close Bathory's career - 100%

WeCanWorkItOut, March 26th, 2017

Bathory is a band that has gone through many changes since its creation in 1983. The early album helped give birth to black metal and in 1988 Bathory released Blood Fire Death, which created a new sub-genre in the metal, the viking metal. The greatest boss, the most ambitious architect of epic-astral riffs, Quorthon, returns with the second installment of "Nordland", the record that marked the return of the viking sound to Bathory.

Nordland II returns us to the best Bathory. Recreating the mystical era, the time when Venom meets Conan. Demons, swords, violence, villages in flames, pain, passion, adventures... and Quorthon converted again into the style's messiah, the maximum guru. The guitars sound very heavy, a bit fuzzy, but still great, when he hits those power chords you realize why they call them POWER chords. The drums sound good, no problem there, the only problem I have with this album is that on a few of the songs I can not hear Quorthon singing, at all, and on this album I think his vocals sound the best out of all of Bathory's albums.

The album begins with “Fanfare” which is an all synth song that drags on for three and a half minutes, only about one maybe two minutes of this song is needed. Next is my personal favorite “The Land”, which is the pinnacle of the album, during its six minutes it never slows down or gets boring. "Death and Resurrection of a Northern Son" and "The Messenger" are very memorable, as long as you accept that you’ve already heard the songs a thousand times before, are songs that sound more true metal than the fucking Manowar’s Louder Than Hell.

This is Bathory's last album and one of most underrated albums along with Blood On Ice, this second part shows a difference in songwriting compared to past works. Some like Blood On Ice were mainly used always both heavy and soft elements in their songs, but on this album we get heavy with tons of cool vocals. A lot of these songs caught my eye with a first listen, which is great because some of their previous works (Destroyer of Worlds) took me longer to dig. There is a vast amount of good songs on here, and everything seems to be in the music for the right reasons.

Quorthon lits fire to the heart of warring army with discs like Hammerheart, Blood Fire Death, Twilight of the Gods or the later Blood on Ice. Even "Nordland" was praised. Nordland II is a very epic album featuring lyrics describing viking battles and nature. Overall it's a very good album with many great riffs and solos, beautiful keyboard/synth work and great vocals, all done by Quorthon. Nordland II is a great epic album and I would recommend it to anyone how is into viking/folk music. Navigating the same seas in which battles were once fought, Quorthon rewards us the Nordland saga and says goodbye with this effort. A great way to close Bathory's career.

Standout Songs:
Blooded Shores, Sea Wolf, The Land, The Messenger, Wheel of Sun

A fitting farewell to one of extreme metal's icons - 78%

linguist2011, March 20th, 2013

“Thursday 7th June, 2012 will mark eight seemingly long years since one of the world's most talented and ambitious musicians left this cruel world”. Of course, that's what any devoted fan of Bathory mainman Quorthon (AKA Tomas Ace Forsberg) and his work will probably tell you. Is it any surprise that the last known album under his belt is one based on a Viking concept then? Certainly not. For anyone who has heard the supremely spectacular black metal force of 'Under the Sign of the Black Mark', the triumphant aggression and victorious sounds of 'Blood Fire Death' or the sorrowful yet still significant 'Hammerheart' albums however, these eight years will not have passed without grief and mourning. It may seem a slight exaggeration to say so, but Quorthon has been loved (and perhaps worshipped) by the metal world ever since the raw madness and evil destruction of Bathory's debut album hit international shores back in 1984.

This introduction merely signifies the build-up to Bathory's last (but not least) release, 'Nordland II'. The second part to the apparent four-album concept that Quorthon had prepared to unleash upon the world certainly seems an interesting one. Those who have heard 'Nordland I' will by now have either listened to 'Nordland II' or disowned it completely, and that may only be determined by whether you believe Quorthon still had it in him over twenty years after his first musical outputs or the fact that his vocals and musicianship is, well, just horrible. Plenty will have eventually given up on Bathory for the latter of these two reasons, but one thing stands clearly head and shoulders above the rest: The concept never gets boring.

Whereas 'Nordland I' covered mostly Norse mythology, perhaps being what most of Quorthon's lyrical content has ever been based around, 'Nordland II' returns simply to the excessive use of Viking folklore and victorious events. No, it does not involve Quorthon repeating his raspy scream on the extremely aggressive track 'War' (WAAAAARRRR YEEEAAHHHHH WAARRRRRGHHH!!!). What it does contain a lot of is extremely good songwriting, but you will naturally expect this from listening to other Bathory albums of the same concept.

The album itself is slightly longer in total than its predecessor, but that doesn't mean to say it isn't as exciting or indeed as accessible. Whilst the album's introduction, 'Fanfare' is perhaps a little too atmospheric for its own good, there is plenty to be admired here. You will know that Quorthon loved to work with choirs, as on albums even as early as 'Blood Fire Death' and 'Hammerheart', and on 'Nordland II', he doesn't waste any time taking advantage of this. However, the album isn't exactly helped when Quorthon tries to sing in synchronization with these choirs, and especially when he tries to hit too high a note. This is because the obvious weakness that has been recurring in his vocals ever since he first sang harmoniously on 'Hammerheart' is also shown on this album. My point here is that, not only is Quorthon's voice the one true downside of this album, it also brings down the quality of songs such as 'Blooded Shores' and 'Vinland', making the album seem incomplete. If it was the choir work that only sang, and Quorthon stuck perhaps to sorting out everything else (bar his own singing), then 'Nordland II' would be infinitely better than it actually is.

One other negative aspect of the album is, however hard you may try to ignore it, the production itself. The performance of every guitar note, drum roll or instance of atmospheric sounds is astounding on here, but once again, the performance lets the album down almost too much to be regarded as anything else but a decent effort. It can't be ignored that the very well executed guitar solos and the thundering drums are marred by a half-hearted production quality, and even though Quorthon had the best intentions of making this album as unique as it could be, he really should have paid more attention to the sound. However, you could also argue that the production was made this way to reflect a Viking-like atmosphere, which is understandably relevant thanks to the lyrical themes themselves.

“So 'Nordland II' doesn't sound like a very good album at all, does it?”. I expected some of you may be asking this having read the first half of this review, but don't worry, because what keeps this album from falling flat on its face is the absolutely brilliant songwriting and very significant song structures. As said before, each and every song flows with such beauty and power that it really is hard to forget the music itself. On 'Blooded Shores' and 'The Land' Quorthon uses choirs to represent such victorious yet harmonious sounds, that one could almost forget the muddy production and focus on the excellent songwriting itself. Of course, Quorthon is no stranger to thundering guitar work and equally as powerful drum work, as on the epic songs of 'Hammerheart' and 'Twilight of the Gods'. On the eye-opening epic 'The Land' and sprawling overture 'The Wheel of Sun', guitars weave their way through every minute like its their last, and not a note is out of place. The drums, whilst not particularly sophisticated, also contribute to the power and grandiosity contained within each solitary anthem on 'Nordland II'. This is no different to Bathory's past releases, but it certainly has been enhanced.

Another similarly advantageous highlight of 'Nordland II' is the lyrical content itself. You will be asking yourselves “Well of course the lyrical content's a highlight!” for sure, but what is special about the lyrical content here is that it contains a certain sense of being higher in power than anyone else. Here's a few examples:

This land is mine to the end of time
none it shall claim or conquer
the mountains high : the endless sky
the forests and the sea (The Land)

Shields I have crushed with my sword
women have I pleased endless nights
on foreign coast my brother did fall
he now dines in hall up high (Sea Wolf)

As you can see, Quorthon does not let up on the importance of being a Viking warrior at all. 'The Land' is but one important example of the significance of the 'Land' itself, this time being 'Nordland'. 'Sea Wolf' shows the importance of being a Viking warrior, and also the pleasures of 'pleasuring' women. It is yet another traditional aspect of the genre that Quorthon has managed to enhance to an almost unforgettable level, and yet fans of the band may still cast this off as “just another Bathory album”.

So is this Bathory's best album? Perhaps not. But whereas it could have been improved in a lot of areas, it could also have been much worse than it actually is. Some may say the rating given for this album is too high, but it is entirely justified on the album itself, and not merely the significance of his entire career as a musician. Perhaps right now, Quorthon has already released the other half of the 'Nordland' album series in Valhalla. If he has, this other half may well have been a distinct improvement on 'Nordland I' and 'Nordland II'. For those who prefer the Bathory of the early days, you may or may not like this album at all. For those who wish to hear the last pieces of music he made before Quorthon's untimely death, you may listen to 'Nordland II' with caution, but also pride. Pride that he didn't make a completely horrible album. Because on this evidence, Quorthon exited the world in a truly memorable way, and one that would not make others forget about him.

Where legends meet the frostbitten sky (part 2) - 95%

hells_unicorn, January 29th, 2012

As previously noted, Bathory is a band that came to my attention posthumously, in spite of being an avid consumer of its contemporaries for more than 10 years prior. The road that led me there began with the last 2 testaments of their greatness, the “Nordland” series, an unfinished series of albums that while not in and of themselves stylistically influential, nonetheless represent the culmination of a still relatively young style that traces its roots back to this same band 15 years prior. It takes into account not only the first official releases that kicked it off in “Hammerheart” and “Twilight Of The Gods”, but also some elements of the transitional effort of “Blood Fire Death” that was still mostly lodged in the band earlier, extreme thrash days.

It is important to note that while these two albums are classified by the Viking metal genre, they are a bit different from many of the bands that go by this label today. Quorthon’s lead vocal approach, while gritty and rough, does not mirror the toneless barks and mutterings that were a staple of the 2nd wave of black metal that he also influenced, a style which is still readily employed by Ensiferum despite coming to a level of mainstream prominence. The background choirs that are also a staple of this style are heavily reverb laden and give the album a slight 80s flavor, as is the case with the drum and keyboard production. The only thing about this album that really fits with the 2000s paradigm is the guitar character, which has a cold combination of crunch and fuzz that is actually fairly similar to the latter day Immortal releases that fairly closely coincided with this.

In comparison to its predecessor, “Nordland II” could be likened to a mirror reflection with a slightly darker tint. The overall pacing and scheme of things is the same, but the folk and acoustic elements have been downplayed slightly in favor of a more bombastic, film score approach of a grand dragon boat off to the distant horizon. Such slow yet striking anthems of seafaring quests in “Blooded Shore” and “The Land” marry together the dense atmospheric layering of vocals and droning guitar and keyboard melodies with a steady groove to create a veritable tapestry of glorious imagery. “Death And Resurrection Of A Northern Star” brings in the faster, thrashing element with an agitated vengeance while still maintaining that Manowar-based pomp that characterized “Hammerheart”, and also shows Quorthon gritting up his voice a bit more.

The really pivotal goods that this album delivers, however, is actually saved until the latter half of the album in two riveting 10 minute plus epics. As is the case with most in this style, the longer these songs go (to a point of course), the better they tend to be, and “The Messenger” proves to be one of the better examples of how great ideas deserve repetition and a very gradual development. For anyone wonders where Ensiferum got longwinded classics like “Heathen Throne”, look no further than this towering example of droning melodies and pummeling grooves. But the absolute high point is “The Wheel Of Sun”, a spellbinding epic of changing seasons that begins from a modest clean guitar intro and grows into a colossal celebration of Norse landscapes. Through its entire 12 minute duration, this song perfectly recaptures the massive atmosphere accomplished on “Twilight Of The Gods” album, right down to the slightly blues/rock infused principle riff that channels “Blood And Iron” to a fault.

This is a fine end, albeit an unfortunately incomplete one, to the Bathory legacy, showcasing a man’s work coming full circle from where it left off at the close of the 80s, where metal music came into prominence and ushered in more than a decade of world changing music. If there were an elite group of artists whose portraits should appear next to the metal name in any encyclopedia or lexicon, Quorthon’s would share space alongside the likes of Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi. While much of his music tends to be polarizing because of the radically different influences that shaped it over the years, the “Nordland” albums stand as his most accessible works, and followers of metal of all stripes should definitely give these a spin.

The wind is still - 70%

autothrall, January 27th, 2012

Released about 5 months after Nordland I, Bathory would not leave us waiting long for what was originally intended to be the second of four total chapters in the Nordland saga. Unfortunately, as we all now know, that would not turn out to be the case. Quorthon's tragic passing in the following year (2004) would retroactively establish Nordland II as the grand finale of one of the most important and influential legacies in all of metal. No pressure, right? Well, perhaps its not remotely fair to judge the record on such grounds, and I won't, but there is no escaping the fact that it often feels like a bunch of leftovers from the previous effort, or rather that he front loaded the content to the series and intended the garner interest on momentum alone with diminishing returns.

Not that Nordland II is necessarily a negative experience. In fact, I feel that tracks such as "Sea Wolf" and "Blooded Shore" create quite a cloud of nostalgia for the Hammerheart album, and I admire the grit he exhibits in his vocal performance here and elsewhere on this sequel. Slow, pendulous heavy metal hammer riffs drowned in choirs, synthesized organs and steady drums that create a dramatic subtext to the sailing, drawn out voices in the late bridge of "Sea Wolf". Chunky momentum and crashing chords dialed straight back to the late 80s glories. I also feel that some of the longer tracks like the 10 minute "The Messenger" (with that incredible, simple melody) and the 12 minute "The Wheel of Sun" with its leaden grooves and gleaming spikes of zephyr-like guitars, are far better at balancing their content and shifting necessary gears of composition thank some of the whales from the previous album.

There are also no crappy thrash tracks like there were on Destroyer of Worlds. The closest the record comes is "Flash of the Silverhammer" a mid-paced chugger which reminds me of the older, primal doom/thrash crunch of their countrymen Memory Garden, making decent use of the vocals to carry what otherwise might be a dullard. Like Nordland I, there's an 8 minute tune which makes good use of a propulsive, brutal into ("Death and Resurrection of a Northern Son"), but I don't exactly love this song, and along with other middling fare like "The Land" or the desolate "Vinland" I just feel like it treads on previous ground. With Hammerheart, Blood Fire Death, Twilight of the Gods, Blood on Ice and Nordland I already out in circulation, I got the impression of rinsing and repeating here, which I'm sure might have stretched out its welcome if the ensuing chapters were to manifest without significant deviations.

In the end, as usual, evaluation comes down to the songs. Some of their older albums had them in spades, but Nordland II doesn't really have much to recommend it unless you're obsessed with its stylistic and spiritual forebears and demand more of the same. I'll grant that there are a few epic climaxes here, and an atmosphere which sparks up fond memories for the influential storms Quorthon rode in on, but it's not an album I would choose over others in the canon. Let's face it: the guy more or less created two massive, enduring substrata of the extreme metal realm, and both within a brief span of years. About 13 years after that period, nothing innovative or really interesting had manifest from Bathory. But he had nothing more to prove, and so he resigned himself to small tweaks on the existing formula. I like the simplicity of the lyrics here, their dependable imagery and adherence to the atmosphere or the songwriting.

But where Blood Fire Death summoned up an eternal wrath from my soul, called my imagination to war forever, this album is more or less a pleasant fjord surfing experience with a few gut wrenching moments of anger. A functional successor to Nordland I, and not a regrettable experience, but not a source for much fascination.


A legacy - 97%

Leechmaster, February 5th, 2010

With a discography as extensive as Quorthon’s, it is easy for certain releases to overshadow others, especially when the quality of his material is as incredible as it is. Now, while it is undeniable that Blood Fire Death, Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods are all absolute masterpieces, I feel that Nordland II, the final chapter of Quorthon’s legacy, deserves far more recognition than it receives because it is honestly just about flawless. Following much the same direction as part I of the Nordland saga, this hour long epic crowns one of metal’s most important and influential figure’s legendary career, featuring some of Bathory’s finest material ever written.

Like its predecessor, Nordland II is a thunderous return back to the epic viking metal sound of mid-era Bathory, but only better. The song-writing is simply masterful, displaying a true sense of wisdom and maturity through nine magnificent compositions, which is complimented by Quorthon’s genius lyrical musings, that transport you right into the middle of a bloody battle raging on across a barren, permafrost laden plain, all taking place underneath an ominous, swirling vortex of black and grey, with the occasional fork of lightning piercing through the clouds and illuminating the sky. The music itself is to a similar effect, with the combination of Quorthon’s riffing, lead and keyboard work all predominantly accompanied by a steady, mid-paced beat conjuring a mental image of charging into battle along side your fellow warriors, with shield in hand and sword at the ready. It is the way the riffs and melodies just feel like they are marching into battle themselves as well as possessing this warlike conviction, which makes this album so damn spectacular and just so majestic. Channeling Bathory’s more thrash orientated material, “Death and Resurrection of a Northern Son” however, shows that Quorthon has not completely ditched the furious pace of his early and mid-90’s records, opening up with a fast, pummelling barrage of double-bass and thick, gritty tremolo picking which continues on right throughout the verse. This ferocious assault though, is short-lived, as we are soon greeted with soaring leads and epic keyboard choirs which make for a climatic build-up into the second verse, which is slightly disappointing as the verses are pretty average both instrumentally and vocally compared to the rest of the song, and is actually the album’s weakest moment.

The following track “The Messenger” however, is absolutely flawless, and one of the stand-outs on the album. Once again, an elevating keyboard and guitar melody kick off the song, accompanied by the sound of the wind howling through the air, which soon explodes into a herd of storming power chords rolling across a field along side a troop of thundering horses galloping into the distance. At 10 minutes in length, this phenomenal track is one of the longest songs on the album, together with “The Wheel of Sun” which clocks in at just over 12 minutes. Plodding along at a much slower tempo, this epic album closer flows much smoother, with Quorthon churning out walls of slower, sustained chord progressions, as well as two conquering guitar solos full of soaring string slides, pulls and bends as well as blazing shredding runs, which also make appearances in “Blooded Shore,” “Sea Wolf” and “The Land,” and are all just loaded with a tonne of pure, emotional energy. Quorthon’s vocals are also just packed with loads of raw energy, utilizing a combination of aggressive, yet brilliantly executed singing, the occasional full-fledged scream and almost archaic sounding chanting, which are all usually accompanied by beautiful back-up choirs. Overall, Quorthon’s vocal performance from a technical standpoint is the best of his career despite a few shaky passages, with his voice sounding better than it ever has and just booming with confidence and maximum energy.

Driving the songs forward towards the horizon with a valiant force, the drums further compliment Quorthon’s mighty guitar and vocal performances, and while they are relatively simplistic consisting of fairly basic beats and patterns with minimal fills, they are still immensely powerful and work with the music exceptionally. Production wise, they’re not perfect, but I don’t feel this is to the album’s disadvantage in any way, and actually adds to its overall charm. The heavily distorted, fuzzy tone of the guitar and gritty bass tone initially didn’t sit to well with me though, but, after a few listens I had no problem with them, as every last instrumental nuance just blends together perfectly. From the epic keyboard droning opening the album in “Fanfare,” to the pan flute synth melody that kicks off “Sea Wolf” or the soft, atmospheric build up in “Death and Resurrection of a Northern Son,” as well Quorthon’s extraordinary vocals, everything just comes together as one charging, triumphant mass of pure brilliance and majesty.

While it doesn’t quite match up to the almost unparalleled magnificence of Blood Fire Death, Hammerheart or Twilight of the Gods, this phenomenal record is certainly still worthy of any metal fan’s attention, and is a grand testament to one of the most legendary musicians to ever grace this planet.