The Selection : Bathory reviewed by Dan Terminus (English interview, 2018)
You probably didn't know about it, unless your read our 2016 interview with the cyberpunk master Dan Terminus, but he has two musical obessions in his life : Type O Negative and Bathory. We tossed a coin and fate chose Bathory. So Dan is going to tell you and/or initiate you about the arcanes of Quorthon's music.
The best album to discover Bathory : Blood Fire Death (1988)
"Blood Fire Death is a major album, because it is entirely composed of grandiose songs. No filler, no bullshit, only tall trees.
It is impossible to label songs like "A Fine Day To Die" or "Dies Irae" as just "songs." They're masterpieces. And that's what Blood Fire Death is, in a way: a collection of masterpieces.
Production is top notch, in Bathory standards. Quorthon's voice is bestial, harmonic and relentless, which will certainly (or strangely) sound good to people who suffer from the Billy Corgan syndrome: I love the music but the singer ruins everything. I've heard some people complaining about Quorthon's voice on early Bathory albums, whereas it's THAT voice that makes it all come together.
Strangely enough, it is still the most accessible Bathory album to this day. That's why I'd recommend it as your first Bathory album to listen to.
It combines the best of Quorthon's worlds: it is definetely metal yet sounding somehow viking at times (foreboding the "Hammerheart" album).
If you had to get someone into Bathory, and could only pick ONE song from Blood Fire Death, then it would be "Odens Ride Over Nordland" segged directly into "A Fine Day To Die."
If they don't like what they hear: fuck them.
My favourite Bathory album : Hammerheart (1990), tied with Under The Sign Of The Black Mark (1987)
I picked two, one from the "black metal" days and one from the "viking" days.
Hammerheart was a slap in the face. And it still is today. This was unlike anything I'd heard before. Majestic, rough, colossal, melodious and captivating.
The songs are long stories, embellished by Quorthon's clear and powerful voice. The vocals are sometimes multi-tracked and/or drowned in reverb, which sounds as if there was a million Quorthon screaming into your loudspeakers. And you can't go wrong with that.
For obvious reasons, Hammerheart became a flagship. Some people often ask how to describe this or that musical style. Well, Hammerheart is the one and only definition of viking metal, should you want to dive into this style.
"Song To Hall Up High" still gives me the goosebumps. I mean, a folk guitar, a synthesizer and Quorthon's voice. Pure magic. Ok, he did it again on "Man of Iron" and "Ring of Gold" but it is, in my opinion, nowhere as touching and moving as in this song.
One song to pick in particular would be "One Rode To Asa Bay". Why ? Because it's a ten minutes long masterpiece that no one ever outdid.
And even after all these years, I still can't hear the neighbour's lawnmower. And to be honest, I don't want to, for it would ruin the mystery.
And Under The Sign Of The Black Mark is the most advanced and complex album of Bathory's black metal days.
Songs are ingeniously put together, with a lot of surprises and changes. The overall sound is the least abrasive of all first three albums (in my opinion). There is a lot to be heard in the album, even synthesizers at times which is a good thing because it gives the music such an amazing dimension.
This album is the sum of what Bathory and The Return Of The Darkness And Evil were: it's black metal in its purest, most quintessential, most elegant, most intelligent form. Only much better.
This album is not an album. It's a cathedral. A cathedral of an album.
A Bathory song that means something special to me: "The Lake" taken from Blood On Ice (1996)
Imagine you're young, you're restless, you listen to Bathory (and not a lot of people around you do). You have a girlfriend who listens to the Ramones, Meat Loaf, Sigur Ros, Bat For Lashes and other mellow stuffs. And you don't expect her to even KNOW of Bathory.
You're driving in your car with said girlfriend, listening to music and all of a sudden, she says: "Play me The Lake by Bathory." So you play the song from your iPod. And she sings along perfectly, knowing the lyrics by heart.
I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
A record to deepen your knowledge of the band : Jubileum Volume I (1992)
I'd say Nordland I (2002), because it's such a massive album. Massive in the way that production, singing, playing, writting and arranging are massive.
It's difficult to pick one album only to dive deeper into the man's discography. So if you want to know more about Bathory and get more chills down your spine, pick Nordland I. But if you want to get more of the black metal vibe, pick Requiem.
Just kidding, again. Requiem ain't that bad. It's a funny album, seriously. It all depends on your definition of "funny" though.
An album I've discovered recently :
No album at all. Bathory/Quorthon is on a rather heavy rotation when I get down to listening to music. By "Quorthon", I mean his solo albums (but more on that in the next question).
Their most underrated album : Purity Of Essence (1997)
Okay, okay, OKAY. I KNOW that etymologically, it's NOT a Bathory album. But I don't care.
I think Quorthon was quite a talented dude. It's a shame he died so early. I am convinced he still had so much more music to share with all of us.
When he released Purity Of Essence, I was blown away by the man's multi-faceted talent. Come on: guy litteraly invents black metal, then moves on to inventing viking metal, then moves on to releasing solo albums containing metal, pop and accoustic songs with tittles like "Fade Away", "You Just Got To Live" or "An Inch Above The Ground"
And it still sounds awesome.
This double album is often overlooked by Bathory enthusiasts because it's not purely Bathory. I'll give them that. But it was written and produced by Ace himself. So why wasting an opportunity to listen to the man's softer musical side ?
Man, Quorthon was litteraly a legend for years (baby eating rumor, anyone ?), not a lot of people even knew what he looked like. And with this double album, we get him to open up on difficult topics of his life, all the while enshrining a certain "mal de vivre" into his music. It would be too bad not take a moment to listen to what the man had to say at this time.
You can't go wrong with someone writting a fucking double album and nailing on all the tracks. It might not be right up your alley, but if you enjoy music in general it could be worth trying your luck with Purity Of Essence.
Too bad he died, really. I would have loved to hear what he had in store next."
By Dan Terminus
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