BATHORY: DESTROYER OF WORLDS (2001)
1) Lake Of Fire; 2) Destroyer Of Worlds; 3) Ode; 4) Bleeding; 5) Pestilence; 6) 109; 7) Death From Above; 8) Krom; 9) Liberty & Justice; 10) Kill Kill Kill; 11) Sudden Death; 12) White Bones; 13) Day Of Wrath.
For all those torn between the «epic-Viking» personality of Hammerheart-era Quorthon and the «thrash-hammer» style of his Requiem/Octagon period, here is the ultimate in gift-showering: a 65 minute-long package that gives you the best of both worlds! Bombastic Scandinavian epics and mosh heaven at (almost) the same time — could anything be better in this world for an open-minded heavy metal admirer?
Now, considering that both the latest Viking-style and the latest thrash-style offerings from Bathory were, at best, questionable (Blood On Ice was somewhat dull, and Octagon was somewhat horrendous), even a very open-minded metal admirer would probably think twice before putting his trust into Destroyer Of Worlds. And, sure enough, some of the problems are carried over: the «epic» compositions are long-winded and repetitive, while the thrash stuff is marred by the same old stupid vocals that are stuck somewhere in the gutter that separates «singing» from «growling» and are more likely to irritate and offend rather than impress and entertain. This I have to say: Quorthon is always Quorthon, despite his seemingly many faces, and, although you can look to Hammerheart for near-perfection, it is more typical of the guy to stick to his formulaic guns than to try and make them look more and more refined over time.
That said, with all the disclaimers in place, Destroyer Of Worlds is a surprisingly good record. We start out with three songs that could have very easily fit on Twilight Of The Gods, and with a little more squirming, even on Hammerheart, although the subject matters are a mixed bag — Quorthon seems to be jumping from his favorite Satanism schtick (ʽLake Of Fireʼ) to images of nuclear apocalypse (title track) and then to Scandinavian pagan anthems (ʽOdeʼ). This means there is no and there will be no further conceptual unity to the album, but that's okay — it was clearly designed that way, as a diverse series of vignettes, and who really cares as long as the vignettes in question work as planned? ʽLake Of Fireʼ adds little of interest to the Bathory canon, stately and threateningly creeping along like all those medieval procession-type songs on Twilight, but it forms a good contrast with the ensuing sturm-und-drang of the title track — and then ʽOdeʼ comes on and blows both of them away with another medieval procession, but this time set to a belligerent, muscular, angular riff.
Then we start moving into true thrash and speed metal territory — ʽBleedingʼ («anatomy metal» with all the expected lyrical imagery), ʽ109ʼ / ʽDeath From Aboveʼ (a nice double tribute to the powers of the Luftwaffe), ʽKromʼ (a somewhat pathetic anthem to the biker tribe), ʽKill Kill Killʼ (yoohoo, anti-establishment!), ʽSudden Deathʼ... wait, is this about somebody getting clubbed to death during a frickin' hockey match? See how this guy Quorthon is dying to show you how versatile and unpredictable he can be if he puts his mind to it? Vikings, Satanists, necrophiliacs, nuclear holocausts, WWII air raiders, bikers, hockey players — suddenly, the Bathory world has stretched out to an almost ridiculously huge size, sucking in almost everything in sight, like the Vacuum Cleaner Beast in Yellow Submarine.
But do we get decent music to go with all that? I'd say, rather yes than no, and that covers even the thrash numbers — suddenly, many of them turn out to be endowed with riffs far more expressive and colorful than anything on Octagon. ʽKromʼ, for instance, does its best to mimic a bike engine roar, turning the steel machine into an animated Godzilla. ʽ109ʼ does the same from the perspective of a Messerschmitt fighter. And ʽSudden Deathʼ does honestly try to imitate the hustle and bustle of a hockey game gone wild — okay, so it does sound a bit like an imaginary soundtrack to WrestleMania or something, but Quorthon manages to make it fun anyway.
As the album ends with two more long compositions (ʽWhite Bonesʼ starts out in generic slow-thrash mode, then suddenly becomes a bluesy / artsy instrumental epic midway through, with Quorthon picking up a psychedelic guitar tone that he never used before; ʽDay Of Wrathʼ returns us to medieval procession mode), it sort of begins to dawn on you that more work must have gone into the construction of this whole thing than on most Bathory albums put together — all the more impressive considering that the entire record was done by Quorthon alone: he is credited for everything, including the rhythm session. At the very least, Destroyer Of Worlds may be counted as the most bizarre and baffling of all Bathory oeuvres — considering that Quorthon had always been a weird person, this judgement is not to be taken lightly.
Sure enough, from a purely formal / technical point of view, other than the completely unpredictable lyrical topics, there is not much new here — but what matters is that, for the first time ever, Quorthon has really sewn all of his ends together, and it works much better than anybody could have expected, and in much stranger ways: for instance, it took me my third listen to actually get that something was «really happening» here, so to speak — but once it did, the intrigue never went away again. It's still there with me, so a quick thumbs up here before the enthusiasm wanes and I start getting angry at those dumb vocals once again (or at the lyrics, which could be even worse — other than the Viking epics, most of these verses do suck).
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