I always look forward to getting things from cottage industry label Godreah. They do things the old way, putting out quality instead of quantity in the form of both eclectic bands and compilation discs. Like their Hawkwind tribute, the title of this one speaks for itself bringing together 22 artists over two discs to cover versions of classic Bathory numbers. I hardly need to go on about who Bathory and Quorthon were here, its been done many a time and I am sure anyone reading this is well versed in the legacy that his passing left behind. All the songs here are done the once, there is no repetition or overlap and when you get to the end of them there is a special added extra that I will get to later.
Bands are in some cases well known to me and others are not. This is what makes these sort of projects so good though, the fact you can hear those you know going outside their box and doing things a bit differently and you can make some new discoveries in the process and find groups you want to check out further. Some old reliable favourites are also on hand to do things in their own perverse way and rather than go for a straight up cover do something quite different with the song they have chosen.
Disc one sees the likes of Hellsword a Slovenian discovery donning leather and patches and hammering out an old school thrash attack in the form of ‘Die In Fire’ which does not screw about in the slightest. Award for the most olden sounding recording has to go to Brits Nine Covens on their ‘The Return Of Darkness And Evil’ it really does sound like it was laid down in some dark catacomb and I see that the names of the band are initialised in the booklet now, could the mysterious cult be about to unveil themselves to those not already in the know? One person who is guaranteed to put their own mark on things is Mories and Gnaw Their Tongues ‘Call From The Grave’ is cavernous and resounds in a way that you cannot fail to hear its screech. Hailing to England and all that, we have Old Corpse Road doing ‘Eqimanthorn’ and I’m afraid I still cannot buy into this band (having seen them live really did not help that cause). Even doing Bathory they sound like a poor mans Hecate Of Filth. Much better are Raven’s Creed who pick the excellent ‘For All Those Who Died’ and make it really epic and thunderous. The gnarly vocals from newish singer Al-Osta fit perfectly.
Eastern Front can’t help but bring images of war to their salvo and ‘Holocaust’ is truly fitted to their cause complete with air raid sirens and a crushing tumult. Now I had not heard Folkvang before and they do pick another belter ‘Dies Irae’ but this is one of those groups I want to hear more from. The production is really loud and in your face and any clean edges are honed away. The one man band that is the project of Wind from Belarus certainly leave their mark. Not too sure about their politics though. Speaking of which there is also a Nokturnal Mortum track ‘Valhalla’ here, a band I have purposely avoided but have to say they deliver one of the best tracks included; particularly formidable and austere. A rare case of thumbs down goes to Skyforger ‘The Woodman.’ Alarm bells rang on awful last release ‘Kurbads’ and this is more of the same, weak nonsense from the band that once gave us the might of ‘Thunderforge’; what on earth has happened here? They have the melody but the vocals are painful. Thankfully we have the excellent Munruthel complete with guest vocals from Forefather Wulfstan doing ‘The Lake’ and wiping its memory away.
Disc two starts with the intriguing rag tag band of musicians The Wolves Of Avalon traipsing ‘Through Blood By Thunder.’ This is a song with a really memorable chorus and it is one you should recognise really quickly. It’s another fitting tribute. One band you know are going to break the rules are Japan’s Sigh. Mirai and co manipulate ‘Under The Runes’ in their own special way with a big emphasis on retro keyboards and sound contortions. It truly is the oddity of the double album. Speaking of odd who knows what to expect from The Meads Of Asphodel? Tackling the fine ‘Destroyer Of Worlds’ this canters off and Metatron’s vocals are instantly recognisable. This also sounds suitably rough as far as the production is concerned. Irish eyes are weeping with Mael Mordha and Darkest Era handling cuts from Nordland I in the form of ‘Vinterblot’ and ‘Foreverdark Woods’ The former soars majestically and is incredibly heartfelt and the latter more of a slow burning crooner. It was at this point I thought of others not on the compilation that should have been. Twilight Of The Gods would have been ideal as we know they can do it and Unleashed would have been cool too. Of course rights issues and all that make things nigh on impossible to get every band one would want and Godreah have done a fantastic job gathering the tribes together for this formidable compilation.
This is not all though and as I mentioned earlier there is something beyond the music namely a recording of an interview conducted by Godreah (which was also a fanzine) with Quorthon himself back in 1996. Of course I am not going to review an interview and it may not be for those of you who just want to listen to the music but as an addition it really is a piece of history that you should at least give one airing.
Sometimes these sort of ‘tribute’ compilations can be hit and miss, cliched and offer no surprises at all. This is hit all the way through, an interesting and varied listening experience to keep you entertained right the way through. Sure there were a couple of tracks that didn’t do it for me but on the whole everything pretty much delivered. If you want to relive Bathory and raise a horn to the memory of Quorthon, what are you waiting for?
(8/10 Pete Woods)