Can we draw a connection between the quality of the covers of BATHORY-albums and the quality of the musical content? Let's see. "Octagon" had a rather weak cover and the music, well, it sucked. "Blood On Ice" was graced with a brilliant artwork by Kristian Wåhlin and the music has been very good as well. Then came "Destroyer Of Worlds", worse cover, crappy CD. Now "Nordland I" comes with another great Wåhlin-cover, very atmospheric, so can the music keep up with it?
Folks, I can tell you, it does! They are back at their Viking Metal-best and as good as "Blood On Ice" was, "Nordland I" beats it, hands down, I won't even talk about "Destroyer Of Worlds"…
After a usual Viking-ish intro, the title track "Nordland" shows us right away what to expect - epic melodies, mostly slow to mid-paced, choirs, Quorthon's oh so typical vocals, standing in full tradition of classics such as "Hammerheart", "Twilight Of The Gods" or "Blood On Ice", which means that it is right up my alley, so to say, Viking Metal in its very original form.
"Nordland" is the ultimative hymn to the North, with a majestic aura that makes BATHORY so special. The sound again is not the best, which is almost a trademark of BATHORY, too. Anyway, everything blends together, the measured rhythm, the epic melodies, the atmosphere, Quorthon's voice, everything forms a cohesive union of pure Northern majesty! That becomes even more evident with the following "Vinterblot", which's melody is just plainly brilliant!
Sure, Quorthon still can't really sing, but as strange as it may sound, it fits this BATHORY-sound almost perfectly, yes, he sometimes tries more than his voice can manage, like in "Dragons Breath", where the guitars partly also take on a slightly strange sound, but all of this is more than forgotten with "Ring Of Gold", a beautiful ballad, only made up from acoustic guitars and good, calm vocals, pure atmosphere, great!
"Foreverdark Woods" starts out in fashion with horse, Jew's harp and acoustic guitar, before turning into another very majestic epic with one of the best vocal performances of Quorthon, before I was completely taken by surprise by the thundering double-bass-attack of "Broken Sword" after a very calm start, with its almost Power Metallish feel to it. No, don't worry, BATHORY do not go HAMMERFALL on us, it still is absolutely BATHORY and good sounding, too!
With "Great Hall Awaits A Fallen Brother" being typical, great, epic Viking Metal, so is the last full track "Mother Earth Father Thunder", a slow-paced, majestic song, very atmospheric, very good!
So, to come back to the start, yes, you apparently indeed can apply the formula "good cover = good music" on BATHORY, "Nordland I" is a simply great Viking Metal album in best tradition of "Hammerheart" or "Twilight Of The Gods", so if you like it epic and majestic, this is the right one for you and I can hardly await "Nordland II"… (Online November 15, 2002)