Thursday, 1 August 2013

Bathory - Twilight of the Gods

BATHORY - Twilight of the Gods (BLACK MARK - LP 1991)
I worship Bathory. They were one of the finest bands EVER and for sure I can admit that the first six (the Great Six) albums, which Quorthon has composed and recorded were unique and perfectly magnificent pieces of metal music. And the fact that Bathory has been changing the sound and style so much between all these records doesn’t break that impression. At the same time I must admit that “Twilight of the Gods” is also the last Bathory record, which I truly, deeply worship, as I am not so enthusiastic about either “Octagon” or “Requiem” and then the last three full lengths (“Blood On Ice” and “Nordland I & II”) are OK, but don’t match the quality of the Great Six at all.
But that’s another story, for another review, here I am going to write something about “Twilight of the Gods”LP, which once more proved that the music of Bathory is eternal and matchless. Obviously it will be pointless to compare this sixth LP to the trilogy of first three albums of Bathory, as musically and lyrically they’re just totally different (but all amazing in their own way). You all know that with “Blood Fire Death” and “Hammerheart” Quorthon has started his Viking trilogy, but even when we compare “Twilight of the Gods” to “Blood…” the difference in the musical direction is quite huge, but at the same time I feel like with this album Quorthon has reached the peak of what he intended to achieve in his Viking trilogy and completed something truly unique and awesome. And he did so by composing the most easily listenable and almost progressive rock metal music, which could have been a great disappointment for the fans of Bathory’s earlier albums, if it wasn’t for the fact that the feeling, the atmosphere and the composition on “Twilight of the Gods” remained absolutely fantastic. And even if this LP isn’t aggressive at all and is so melancholic and catchy, it still catches my heart every time I listen to it.
I mentioned that the album is easily listenable… it damn is. It is almost radio friendly, if only radios were playing long, melancholic metal songs. Quorthon has really changed the basics of his songs on “Twilight of the Gods”. First of all he concentrated on the clean vocals in the entirety of the album. Sure, he has already used them a lot on “Hammerheart” (another album I worship), but “Twilight of the Gods” is devoid of any more aggressive vocals (and riffs). But it is not a failure, as Quorthon has had really fantastic voice, which fitted the epic music perfectly, so I cannot imagine now “Twilight of the Gods” without such style of singing. It just wouldn’t sound right, especially as the music is also sometimes way different to the previous albums. Forget any black metal riffing from “Under the Sign of Black Mark” or sharp, thrashing pieces from “Blood Fire Death”. This is truly epic and impressive playing, based mainly on the acoustic guitar, which basically fills the entire album, playing along the electric guitars just like bass and drums. And I wouldn’t even be surprised if “Twilight of the Gods” was actually composed on the acoustic guitar… Anyway, the final result is truly amazing. These acoustics give the album a special sombre feeling; they add to it some kind of folk music touch or the classic progressive rock feeling. All in all they also make the whole sound less aggressive and more easily understandable, clearer and thus I think that even those, who don’t like the metal music would like this album, especially as it is filled with many hooks, memorable, heroic, catchy choruses and almost melancholic, sad, yearning feelings. I must admit that “Twilight of the Gods” is in my opinion by far the most epic and most majestic album in the history of metal music.
And to start your album with 14 minutes long epic tune such as “Twilight of the Gods” is something what only Quorthon could have done. This song alone – with its prologue and epilogue - for sure is one of the highlights of this LP and perfectly represents the entire album, as it just has everything what makes “Twilight of the Gods” to be such a significant, unique LP. Plenty of long, instrumental passages, including some acoustic pieces, many epic and majestic riffs and totally possessing chorus part… and of course that fantastic clean singing of Quorthon. He may be playing one motif (killer riff!!!!) for most part of the song, but the way it is arranged and composed, with all those acoustics and everything else around it makes it sound just impressive and involving. It is just a delight for my ears and I love the way the songs are structured, how they progress and build the atmosphere and the whole tension, not just within one song, but also through the entire album. When holding the lyrics sheet and reading the texts it is again almost like a journey through the distant past years (although the title track tells more about the modern days I think) and if you close your eyes you can almost see these landscapes and visions, which Quorthon described in his lyrics. Fantastic feeling. And the music is just spotless, as all songs from side A are just impressive and faultless, starting with the epic opening anthem through “Through Blood by Thunder”, which is almost like a rage and more angry track and to “Blood and Iron”, which may be the least favourite of all three songs from side A, but which brings some memorable moments as well, especially the impressive opening theme has stayed in my mind.
But side B has even more killer tunes starting with “Under the Runes”, which is based on a riff, which sounds like a hard rock riff, but played in more epic and majestic way. Then we have two excellent pieces “To Enter the Mountain” and “Bond of Blood”, which are the quintessence of Bathory on this album. And finally the whole album finishes with “Hammerheart” and this epic tune surprises a lot. It basically is a classical music theme titled “Saturn”, originally composed by an English composer Gustav Holst, to which Quorthon added the vocals… and well, well, the final effect is thunderous. It is just an epic tune, very sad and it almost sounds like a farewell – and it was supposed to be one, as “Twilight of the Gods” was meant to be the final Bathory release (and when listening to “Requiem” and “Octagon” I wish it was). Just as I always get quite nostalgic and emotional when listening to “Song to Hall up High” from the previous LP, these same feelings come back with “Hammerheart” and words like “…Now that the wind called my name and my star had faded now hardly a glimpse up in the empty space and the wise one-eyed great father in the sky stilled my flame… The vast gates to hall up high shall stand open wide and welcome you with all its within and Oden shall hail us bearers of a pounding hammerheart…”. Hail Quorthon!
Standout tracks: “Twilight of the Gods”, “Through Blood by Thunder”, “Hammerheart”, “To Enter the Mountain”
Final rate: 90/100

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