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Friday, August 16, 2013

Bathory: Octagon


1) Immaculate Pinetreeroad #930; 2) Born To Die; 3) Psychopath; 4) Sociopath; 5) Grey; 6) Century; 7) 33 Some­thing; 8) War Supply; 9) Schizianity; 10) Judgement Of Posterity; 11) Deuce.

This is where we hit total rock bottom: think Requiem, but without all the good riffs. Keeping the tempos, Quorthon completely jettisons any attempts at decent songwriting — most of this stuff is headed straight for the moshing pit and nowhere else. Perhaps the idea was that Requiem did not manage to be nearly as extreme as Quorthon envisaged it, so he gave us something even more blunt, minimalistic, and «parodic» in the bad sense of the word.

If it can be any consolation, the vocals are cleaner this time, closer in execution and effect to classic early Bathory than the «gargling-one's-own-vomit» approach of Requiem. On the other hand, the lyrics have deteriorated beyond repair: ʽ33 Somethingʼ is Quorthon's «tribute» to the execution of serial killer John Wayne Gacy, about which he must have read in the papers circa 1994, and if the «song» is supposed to make one experience disgust towards the killer, it fails — by offering neither a hint at melody nor a glimpse of truly scary imagery. "Blooded hole, twisted soul, eat my shit, suck my dick", goes the refrain. Okay then.

One does not have to go much farther than the song titles — ʽPsychopathʼ, ʽSociopathʼ (back to back!), ʽSchizianityʼ — to understand what it is all about: a dumb experiment in going to sonic and verbal extremes, perhaps (who knows?) consciously aimed at offending and alienating Quor­thon's heavily expanded fanbase. In the process, lines are completely blurred between heavy me­tal and hardcore (much of this record could have very easily come from the hands of, say, Agno­stic Front), but not in a triumphant synthesis of the genres, rather in a catastrophic meltdown of both. A few of the songs slow down the tempos (ʽCenturyʼ, ʽSchizianityʼ), but then they end up sounding like derivative and cumbersome attempts to revive the old New Wave of British heavy metal — not as utterly dumb, perhaps, but just as forgettable.

Biggest surprise, and most decent entry on the album, is a cover of ʽDeuceʼ — yes, the KISS song, possibly thought of as another ironic slap in the face to the fans: Bathory's evil / brutal sound used to be as far removed from the glam-rock theater of KISS as possible, yet here is Quorthon coming out of the closet, confessing his loyalty not only to the old-school thrash masters (which could be understood), but to the make-up wearing poseurs as well. As an expectation-breaker, the gesture could actually be adorable — if not for the fact that the cover is all too faithful, yet all too per­functory, carrying over neither the caveman cockiness of Gene Simmons, nor the garage crude­ness of early KISS guitars (for that matter, cold as I usually am towards KISS, ʽDeuceʼ is one of their greatest songs, and nobody has ever played it quite like those guys).

In short, another failure — experimental failure, to be precise, not a corny «sell-out» or anything, just firm final proof that not everything Quorthon tried to do turned to gold. Black metal, yes; Viking metal, for sure; but troglodytish thrashing — no. (I almost caught myself trying to type in something like "the guy was just too intelligent to properly get this style", but then realized I have way too little knowledge about Quorthon's degree of intelligence to make this into even a purely hypo­thetical statement). Thumbs down, and it would be easy to pretend that this album never actually happened — after all, «failed experiments» do not have to be considered as a natural part of the artist's general curve.  

Check "Octagon" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Octagon" (MP3) on Amazon

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