Review Summary: Epic and atmospheric, with good musicianship and amazing songwriting.
Bathory released this amazing album in 1990. It continues the change to Viking Metal that begun on the 1988 release Blood Fire Death. A video was made for “One Rode to Asa Bay”.
It definitely sounds like Bathory. Quorthon’s voice is one of the voices that sounds cool because of the imperfections in it, much like Ozzy’s does or Tom Araya’s voice. Quorthon does not sound anything like them but he has character. The drums are drenched in reverb and not mixed too loud, and the guitars are thin and melodic but very tight. The bass just follows the guitars, or at least does nothing memorable. Conclusion is good sound because you can hear everything, although you have to concentrate a bit to get the bass lines.
The choir, which I think is all Quorthon, is over-used; like in “Baptised in Fire and Ice” it’s there for most of the song and kind of ruins the chorus. It does fit under the solos and in the mellow/acoustic chapters in some of the songs (as in the intro to the first track, Shores in Flames) but it started irritating me right on the first listen, maybe it would have worked if it was mixed lower, I don’t know. The guitar riffs are, as always amazing and very atmospheric, the solos aren’t very catchy nor do they sound difficult to perform, but they FIT. They serve the songs very well.
Kothaar’s bass, again, follows the guitar, not that it’s a bad thing and it fits, just like the solos, no atmosphere is sacrificed for showmanship. Vvornth’s drumming is excellent, it is almost always just standard but when he differs from that rule, he does it so well.
The singing melody on some songs absolutely makes them what they are (“Home Of Once Brave”), and the lyrics to all the record are very “pagan” and “Viking-esque” and suit the music, sometimes the words are a bit awkwardly fit to the vocal melody but that’s a minor con. The outro of this record is very sinister and fitting.
“One Rode to Asa Bay” begins with a very strange intro but then takes on a very epic form, with it’s epic verses to it’s epic solos, it’s purely amazing, and because at 10:24 it is 1/5th of the record it boosts it up a whole point.
Even the cons fit the atmosphere.
Very well produced for black metal
If you’re not into black metal, this may sound raw.
Quorthon’s voice may bother some people.
The choir in “Baptised in Fire and Ice”.
Very good and epic album, and though it is long it doesn’t feel long, although not a classic a 4,5 is a easy grade for this one.