The 12th and final album from Bathory is a continuation of the Nordland saga set forth on 2002’s Nordland I. For better or worse, Nordland II is a case of “second verse, same as the first” meaning there are pockets of brilliance and pockets of just waiting for the next song to come on. You can argue whether one album is better than another, but the truth is there’s a remarkable consistency to the records. That consistency however means everything feels interchangeable instead of progression that leads to fabled destination.
Is that necessarily a bad thing, though? Moving past “Fanfare” there are moments on “Blooded Shore” that show a real attempt to stretch wings, like the the vocal melody o the pre-chorus which almost feels like Quorthon stretching the limits of his range, but the result is an off-guard moment of real drama and passion. This same sense of experimentation doesn’t work nearly as well on “She Wolf” but there are again moments (like the up front keyboards) that salvage it from being a dud.
There are some great songs on Nordland II, all of which may differ depending on what you’re looking for. The first real taste of greatness for me lies in “Vinland” with its nasty opening riff that resolves into a majestic march. Likewise the epic “The Messenger” and the vicious opening to “Flash of the Silverhammer” – these are songs with bite, with a real sense of classic heaviness that merges well with the viking metal. The other two poster songs each have their moments, but there’s a real disconnect for me on “Death and Resurrection of a Northern Son” in the way it tries to shoehorn in al almost return to black metal pummeling in its opening that does little except to highlight the muddy nature of the production. At over 12 minutes “Wheel of Sun” is the closer Bathory fans have come to crave, and it’s good; whether it lives up to the promise of everything Bathory have come to represent in metal is something I’ll leave up to you.