Review Summary: Nordland suffers from playing it safe, redundant, boring, and terribly produced.
In proportion to the amount of bands that have infested and swarmed the Earth since the inception of modern rock music very few accomplish anything with their careers. Very few can claim themselves influential, most bands’ fan base throughout their entire career will consist of their mothers and old friends from high school. Even fewer bands can claim to have influenced or defined entire musical genres. Yet however it is an excessively select number of bands that can rightfully claim to have done so twice. The almighty Bathory is well among them. Since their inception Bathory, or more accurately their front man, mastermind and only constant member Quorthon, have broken barriers, borders and fences writing some of the most influential pure black metal albums of all time in the beginning of the career only to later fluidly evolve away from the raw Satanism into an epic style that evoked, both musically and lyrically, the great battles and stories of the Norse Vikings, thus bringing to life a whole new genre in the process, Viking Metal. Nordland 1 is the first in a four part series; however Quorthon died in 2004, only completing the first two installments.
Nordland 1 starts off with a grandiose epic introduction with a fully synthesized orchestra and choral parts courtesy of Quorthon himself, yet it doesn’t sound cheesy or forced, it all sounds very natural and organic, it truly creates an atmosphere, something that Quorthon has always stated is one of Bathory’s main goals. Then, as if an extension of the introduction comes the title track, roaring with all its Viking might. But there’s something wrong. The guitars are screechy, the synthesizers are excessively cheesy and the main riff has what can probably be called the worst use of cowbell in metal history. Somehow things don’t fit. The music isn’t bad, in some points it’s rather good but the way in which it is executed, the little details, are so terrible that they take away from otherwise strong songs. At some points it even seems like the programmed drums are out of time with the rest of the music.
The lyrics are standard Bathory fare, Viking battles, beautiful nature, pagan pride, and so on. Though they maybe the same old story somehow they don’t seem boring or redundant rather a bit reaffirming in the midst of a musically doubtable album. The dirty guitars and the annoying synthesizers continue for the rest of the album, making it a harder listen. But apart from that there is another problem, most of the songs sound the same, follow the same structure and have the same arrangements. The mid tempo epic rock of the title track manifests itself in an exceedingly similar manner in Vinterblot, Dragons Breath and Mother Earth Father Thunder with even the same little monk chants following the guitar melodies. Though a great guitar solo manages to show itself in Vinterblo the wall of rhythm guitars is so dirty and thick that it is lost in the midst. Ring Of Gold is a pleasant surprise, a nice melodic ditty that serves as a sort of interlude in the middle of the fanfare, with no synthesizers or electric guitars to be heard, and what is perhaps the album’s strongest track is the one that best shows its failures, precisely because they are not there. Though certain tracks distance themselves from the rest of the album, such as the excellent rush of Broken Sword, reminiscent of Bathory’s earlier black metal works they still suffer from the bad production (I hate to be redundant but it’s those goddamn screechy guitars!) that the rest of the album suffers from. The acoustic and clean passages in songs such as Foreverdark Woods are some of the album’s strongest points, providing a rest from the stark redundancy and annoyance that stain the album so strongly.
The album closes to the sound of seagulls in a quiet beach, washing away the disappointment one feels when listening to this album. After years of breaking new ground and exploring new fronts Bathory have somehow made an unoriginal, repetitive and horribly produced album that although only shines in a few places it shines very powerfully thus saving this album from being a complete disgrace.
• Symphonic and acoustic passages
• Broken Sword
• Horrible guitar sound
• Cheesy synths
• All songs sound the same
• Recycling of ideas