Bathory – Twilight of the Gods (1991)
Twilight of the Gods is like Hammerheart, except more so. While that album showcased most of the innovations Quorthon had been working on for the last few years, this one refines them and polishes up the sound a bit more. As such, it is (painfully obviously) not black metal of any sort, but even this approach has made its way into the genre. Every time you listen to the latest ‘epic’ or ‘viking’ themed black metal band to make their way onto Spotify, you’re imbibing Bathory, even if it’s Bathory filtered through a million artists trying to exceed the band’s work. You’re also drinking Springfield, but I digress.
As I said before, much of what applies to Hammerheart also applies to Twilight of the Gods. Quorthon’s choice of improvements, while subtle, help tie the experience together more effectively. First and most immediately notable is that the long songs here are more coherent. I don’t know if I’d put the title track here above “Shores in Flames” overall, but while Hammerheart‘s first track has its hooks and novelty, this one explores more ideas without losing its crucial coherence, and I definitely appreciate that. While most of the instrumentation is broadly similar to the previous album, the vocal end of things has definitely improved. Quorthon’s singing voice is stronger and generally less strained, and he also multitracks his vocal backing more effectively.
If those characteristics lead you to believe that this album is entirely superior to what came before it (at least within its genre of choice), then you would probably end up with the same expectations that I had when I first listened to it. Times have sure changed since then. While Twilight of the Gods is certainly accomplished in what it sets out to do, I usually go into Bathory wanting the black metal aggression of their past. Even Hammerheart retained a hint of that in its rougher moments, but it’s sorely missing here. I also feel that, at least in comparison to the first half, the second half of this album drops the ball. Oddly enough, that might actually be due to the trackination. Some editions of this album merge the first three songs here (“Twilight of the Gods”, “Through Blood By Thunder”, “Blood in Iron”) into one megatrack that would make a fine EP if released separately. The other track lack a sense of unity and cohesion by comparison, even if it’s an artificial decision possibly brought on by manufacturing requirements.
Even if it falters later on, Twilight of the Gods‘ first half soars above even the peaks of Hammerheart. The two are inseparable as far as I’m concerned, and many a band has been launched towards untold glory through the formulas popularized here.
Highlights: The first half. Did you even read this post?