Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bathory - Requiem (1994)

With Twilight of the Gods, Bathory was supposed to have been laid to rest. A couple of compilation albums were released, as sort of a posthumous tribute and Quorthon moved on to a solo project that took him quite a distance from the sort of music that he had once played. After releasing Album, it seemed that he felt some pressure to make a new Bathory album and, taking only a few weeks to write it, this resulted in Requiem. Released in November 1994, this L.P. represents yet another shift in the band's sound. With the previous albums becoming more and more complicated and involved, it was natural that he felt that he had painted himself into a corner. The only real choice would be to make a complete break with the direction that Bathory had been going in, to return to a more simplistic and raw approach. While possessing a completely different sound, Requiem hearkens back to the speed and intensity of the early records. Unfortunately, this time around, the end result is nowhere near as good.

One of the worst things about this album would have to be the absolutely atrocious production. This is not under-produced like the first album, where the sound ends up being raw and dark. One can tell that this was simply a matter of getting a really awful sound with nice, modern equipment. Whenever a band uses a real studio to try getting a garage sound, they fail. The guitar tone is horrid, and the bass is far too prominent in the mix. The drums sound incredibly fake and triggered, though it really gives the impression of being a drum machine. It would seem that, around this time, Quorthon was listening to too much Death Metal, as this comes off as his interpretation of that style, to an extent.

Of course, musically, this is much more of a Thrash Metal album than anything else. However, it sits alongside efforts such as Slayer's Divine Intervention as a record that was released a few years too late. Not just because of the wretched modern sound, but because too few were interested in such a release at the time. Had it been put out in the mid-to-late 1980s, Requiem would likely have turned out much better and received more positive feedback, accordingly. The music is fast and intense, with guitar solos all over the place and harsh vocals on top of it all, but it seems rather generic. The thing is, if Quorthon was going to drop the Viking Metal in favour of something else, it would have made much more sense to revisit the sound of Under the Sign of the Black Mark. By 1994, countless bands that were inspired by Bathory's early output were making a name for themselves and it would have been natural for Quorthon to reclaim his throne. How incredible it would have been for him to return in 1994 with a record that put most of the Norwegians to shame. Instead, he never looked back to his Black Metal days, opting to let his followers keep the black flame burning.

Overall, Requiem is a decent album if you can ignore the countless flaws in the recording. It does not match up to any of the old Bathory albums, though it is at least more consistent than Twilight of the Gods. The main cause for disappointment is that the material just seems beneath what Quorthon was capable of. One has to appreciate the raw and passionate feeling of the material and performance, despite the production. Give this a shot if you are interested in hearing Quorthon's take on Thrash Metal. If you go in without any real expectations and just take it for what it is, you may find it much more enjoyable.