Bathory

Nordland II

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When Bathory released the first installment of their latest sonic adventure in Norse mythology, 2002's Nordland I, there was a distinct sense of "been there, done that" to the proceedings. After all, Bathory pretty much invented the Viking metal sub-genre with watershed releases such as Blood Fire Death and Hammerheart years ago, and there was no denying that the band's basic template was sounding somewhat tired and recycled. Nordland I's compositional depth eventually rose to its defense over repeated listens, but one was nevertheless left with the feeling that this was an incomplete vision, making the arrival of Nordland II a few months later all the more urgent and necessary. Thankfully, this was exactly the case, as both albums' individual weaknesses are greatly subdued by their unified strength. And yet, as has often been the case with Bathory's latter-day albums, Nordland II only really starts to pick up steam after a few rather tentative songs, hitting its stride on this occasion with the gloriously marching "The Land" and its superior follow-up, "Death and Resurrection of a Northern Son." The second truly encapsulates all the elements that have made Bathory great over the years, as it blasts into hyper-metallic territory with some furious riffing, then settles into a slower, though no less powerful mid-section before slowing it all down entirely for a melodic acoustic passage. Clocking in at ten, slightly bloated minutes, subsequent track "The Messenger" (replete with galloping hooves) is less effective, as is the even lengthier "The Wheel of Sun," but once again, the problems here don't involve a lack of substance or quality, so much as Bathory's many prior triumphs in the same arena. Still, listen to both volumes of Nordland back to back (preferably while watching The Lord of the Rings with the sound turned off), and you'll get a better grasp and appreciation for the entire magnum opus. Possibly too much to digest for neophytes, Nordland I and II offer a bountiful feast for serious Bathory followers.

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