HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Bathory - Nordland I
(Black Mark)

Bloody 'ell, talk about (m)old school. The elusive and reclusive Quorthon creeps back with an album of panoramic yet claustrophobic Viking metal that creaks like a chain mailed soldier of doom riding high atop weathered maritime planks. Slogging grimly from plodded track to track, Nordland I is in a class of its own, for who would dare make metal so doddering, belaboured and ill of tone? Fact is, Quorthon owns this patch of land by default, the man defiantly out of touch with modern production and yet determined to mine an odd soundtracky realm, all the while using his plain singing voice barely a whisper above a grumble and a mumble. Slow, frigid and dark, Nordland I will either strike you as a laughable mess of artistic mistakes unknowingly cast in bad taste, or the wily, purposefully organic and bog-static rantings of a mind shuttered in his Northern drawing room.
Rating 6.5

Black Sabbath - Symptom Of The Universe 1970-1978

Designed by Rhino's top flight designers, this 29 track comp of the Sabs' Ozzy years stands as the best intro (at the two CD level) to the band's seminal run of nine albums before a seasick Ozzy fell off the ship at sword point. Musically, the key move is the inclusion of the band's early hit, a cover of Crow's Evil Woman, included on the UK version of the debut but not the North American. Elsewhere, every heavy song from Master Of Reality is here, as well as too many from the debut, both ballads from Vol 4 (?), Fluff instead of Killing Yourself To Live from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (shame), and then a spotty though grudgingly adequate sampling of the final three. The rub's really in the 48 page booklet, which is stuffed with rare photos and a fairly fresh liner essay from the eminently qualified Mick Wall, who also extracted colourful quotes from the band. Worth at least a tenth of the price for the page 33 shot of Geezer alone.
Rating 6.5

Hard Reviews Page 5