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I already stated in my other review that “Under the Sign of Black Mark” is definitely my favourite Bathory LP and also one of my fave metal albums of all times… but Quorthon, through the years of Bathory existence, managed to compose and record several amazing LPs and if one would ask me which another LP of his I like most then I guess it would be “Blood Fire Death”. Hmm, obviously the choice if pretty difficult, as there’s that amazing originator of what we know as nowadays black metal (at least in my opinion) called “The Return…” and there’s also the great epic “Twilight of the Gods”. But I think “Blood Fire Death” is slightly better than these two – and “Hammerheart” – mainly because this album has some of my favourite Bathory songs, so this is why I would choose this one. Anyway, “Blood Fire Death” should be mentioned as one of the most influential and significant metal albums of all times, not only due to the music it contains, but also because who knows, if this LP hasn’t started something what nowadays everybody knows as “Viking metal” – which is basically any sort of metal music, dealing with Viking myths and other Nordic stuff in the lyrics. Prior to that album Bathory was dealing with satanic and dark matters, with “Blood Fire Death” Quorthon changed some of his lyrics creating something totally new to the scene! At least I don’t know about any other band, which would explore the Vikings theme so much before… OK, maybe there isn’t as much of this stuff on this LP as on the future Bathory records, but surely it’s the first time they’ve appeared! I can only honour and admire Quorthon’s impact on the evolution of the metal scene – first his early works have been a great influence on Norwegian black metal and then he created and influenced another group of bands – mainly Scandinavian – for something different once more. What a creative person he was…
Anyway, “Blood Fire Death”, released back in 1988, is the fourth album of Quorthon and one, which – just as any other previous release of his – brings yet another change in the sound of Bathory. I mean, if you listen to all three previous records it will be certain that none of them sounds like its predecessors and each brings something different to the sound and style of the band. Starting with Venom-esque self titled debut, then going through more darker and utterly evil “The Return…” and finishing off with wonderfully catchy, but epic, dark and evil and way better composed “Under the Sign of Black Mark” – each LP is different. But “Blood Fire Death” is something way diverse and once more Quorthon just turned into completely different direction than anybody would expect. From one hand the album has a handful of savage and fast thrash metal songs and from the other there are some monumental, more melodic and almost beautiful songs, which take the epic side of the previous LP into another dimension.
I guess my - and everybody else’s – favourite songs from “Blood Fire Death” would definitely be the title track and “A Fine Day to Die”… The latter song – opened by a three minute long introduction called “Odens Ride Over Nordland” – is one of the finest nine minutes, which Quorthon has ever composed. This song is just perfect, the riffs are just amazing, so are the vocals and more so I just love the way the whole song has been built, how it develops and creates the tension, keeping the listener with the mouth open in amazement. Long part of this track can really be instrumental, but it still brings the attention and is catchy as hell. And would anyone in the times of “The Return…” expect Bathory to open the album with an acoustic guitar and clean vocals, creating rather peaceful aura, before the first truly heavy and epic riff begin? Combined with the lyrics dealing about the warriors going to the battle it surely feels almost like a fantastic movie soundtrack… just close your eyes and you can see the men, standing in the battlefield, roaring and holding swords, axes or spears, ready to fight or die: “…Along the black mountainside scattered, by the campfires awaiting the dawn two times a hundred men in battles, tried by the steel in the arrow axe and the sword…”. Another epic and impressive song is the title track… this one finishes the album in very similar vein to the opener “A Fine Way to Die” and trust me, it is equally thrilling and memorable as “A Fine Day to Die”!!!! The riffs in this song are just excellent; again this is very long song – 10 minutes, so it is the longest one – opened by a short acoustic theme, soon joined by thunderous drumming and heavy riff; basically whole song has one main riff (one of Quorthon’s best!!!!!!!!), accompanied by some keyboards, but with lots of variations during the song… The song structure is simple, but so damn effective and one of a kind, unique as hell and I always get shivers, when I listen to it! And the vocals of Quorthon in it are just excellent! They’re way cleaner and more melodic than his usual harsh, raw voice and also more understandable, something he’ll continue doing on the future albums. And again, you can just close your eyes to watch Ragnarok and all that Nordic stuff… so awesome! And finally I should mention "For All Those Who Died" – this song I think has pretty strong heavy metal influence, with that mid paced, catchy riff and simple drumming… It may not feel too complicated and also not as epic as the two tracks I mentioned above, but it is so damn catchy, so wonderfully memorable that it surely belongs to the finest moments of “Blood Fire Death”.
In between those monumental and epic tunes “Blood Fire Death” contains also a number of very aggressive and fast thrashing songs, which is a bit of a surprise, as I guess they literally can take you back to Bathory’s beginnings, only on “Blood Fire Death” the sound is way better – even if it feels a bit chaotic in those fast songs – and they’ve progressed a lot, they not as primitive anymore, if I can say so. Listen to “The Golden Walls of Heaven” – man, drums just doesn’t slow down there almost at all, except one fragment really, they’re just beating the skin mercilessly with the same, fast tempo all the time, accompanied by great fast riffing and cacophonic guitar leads. Personally though I prefer "Pace 'Till Death" and “Holocaust” – if we speak of the side A of the vinyl - which are just excellent songs. The first verse of the "Pace 'Till Death" lyrics says everything about these two songs’ attitude: “Oh I hit top speed, still it's much too slow…” hehe! Yeah, these are fast fuckers, relentless and maybe a bit messy here and there, but I like such stuff a lot. “Holocaust” is just insane, barbaric and it definitely is the fastest song, which Bathory have ever recorded, in my opinion. "…Mirror mirror on the wall I'm the fastest of them all!!!!!!” hehe!!!!!
But of course most of the fans would worship Bathory mainly for the epic music and “Blood Fire Death” delivers a couple of stunning songs from this style… In my opinion even if this LP is not quite as phenomenal as “Under the Sign of Black Mark” it still contains a couple of my favourite Bathory songs. And even if the likes of “The Golden Walls of Heaven” quality wise aren’t as good, it is good enough to just have this LP in the collection and build an altar for it – if you already haven’t got the whole Bathory chapel in your basement! Oh, and obviously as everybody knows the lyrics to "The Golden Walls of Heaven" and "Dies Irae" are acrostics: the first letters of each line spell out words, namely "SATAN" and "CHRIST THE BASTARD SON OF HEAVEN". Can it get any more classic and cult? I don’t think so!! Hail Bathory!
Standout tracks: “A Fine Day to Die”, “Blood Fire Death”, "For All Those Who Died", “Dies Irae”
Final rate: 90/100
This album is an oddity. It’s odd when held up to the rest of Bathory’s discography, it’s odd in its own right- I don’t think any band (including Bathory themselves, obviously) has ever effectively replicated this album’s particular sound, and it’s odd that this album gets fellated by pretty much the entire metal populace, because, for the most part, it’s just not that good! And trust me; I’ve tried to like it- moreso than any other album, probably. I gave it multiple listens in multiple different settings, I read reviews of how great it was and tried to see the elements the reviewer said made them so great, I did all I could- but eventually I realized enjoying music shouldn’t have to be this much work. It should just come to me naturally.
It’s not like I have anything against Bathory, either, in fact I'm a pretty large fan of the band. Hell, my two favorite Bathory releases (Under the Sign of the Black Mark and Hammerheart) are chronologically surrounding this album! Yet, as anybody into Bathory knows, those three albums are very different- Under the Sign of the Black Mark is primitive, thrashy madness and Hammerheart is a grand, sweeping epic. Blood Fire Death is something of the transitional album- not just between the two aforementioned albums, but also for Bathory’s career as a whole- Blood Fire Death was where Quorthon started to move away from the visceral, proto-black/thrash sound he had and moved into his more melodic, Viking metal style- this album was testing the waters, so to say. And as such it blends the two styles to a certain extent. Sounds like a dream come true, right? A grandiose, catchy album that doesn’t lose the raw, primitive feel- I can only assume most metalheads would go apeshit for such a combination. However, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Instead of being the best of both worlds, Blood Fire Death ends up being the worst of both worlds, mostly due to Quorthon just not being particularly good at his instruments. Now, before, that was never a problem, he used his lack of technical ability to his advantage and he could make up for it due to his vision and songwriting abilities- but on this particular album it doesn’t seem to work, because in order to create a more melodic, yet still aggressive sound you need to have more dynamic melodies, and many of the riffs here are just very restrained, forced to remain within the box due to their simplicity- they sound like mere prototypes for awesome, mindblowing riffs, with just a little more evolution and work they could be so much more…and it’s frustrating, because I can see the effect they’re trying to have on me, but it just doesn’t click.
But this isn’t really a Viking metal album, right? I mean, despite how much influence this had on folk/Viking metal, this is really just a thrash album at its core. So we should judge it as such, right? Well, this doesn’t succeed as that either. There’s a lot of aggression on here, I can see that, one thing Quorthon was always good at was conveying emotion and vision in his songs, but it’s a horrendously uncontrolled mess of aggression. The drumming plays a big part in this- say what you will about Quorthon’s genius, he never was all that great at drumming and it affects the music most here. A lot of the times the drums seem to go off beat with the music, and the drum patterns in general are really bland and basic, which drags the power of the music down- music like this needs solid, nuanced drumming that drives the music forward, and the drums don’t provide that.
If that were all that was to the album, I would simply chalk it up as a mediocre, amateurish album that does nothing for me. However, there’s a couple of times Quorthon does sorta try to step out of the box and do something slightly different- but those parts always hurt the music more than they help. The first “different thing” is the bits of acoustic guitars scattered throughout the album, most notably at the very beginning of the album, in “Odens Ride Over Nordland” and at the start of “A Fine Day to Die”. I’ve seen people praise these for being “atmospheric” and “beautiful”- I’m sorry, what? The acoustic bits have some of the most uninteresting, repetitive chord progressions I’ve ever heard and only really further drive the point about this album’s lack of dynamicity into the ground, as opposed to creating any sort of vivid atmosphere. They’re just one more addition to the long list of examples why metal musicians should never try to make acoustic music. The second “different thing” is that infamous beginning to “Pace ‘till Death”. It’s a bouncy little melody that resembles the popular children’s song “Ring Around the Rosy”, that has no connection to the primitive thrashiness of the rest of the song. It’s really irritating and unnecessary, but guess what? People are eating that shit up too! A previous review actually stated that it was “cool and funny”! Come on now, that’s really stretching for praise. Calling a terrible bouncy opening to a song “funny”? I think the word you were looking for was “fucking stupid”. (Yes, I know that’s two words.) The final thing that makes this album somewhat different is the integration of clean vocals into the music. They’re very gruff, barky and are rather simple melodically- Quorthon’s range doesn’t exactly span five octaves. They’re actually rather similar to his harsh vocals, but lacking any kind of power or prowess because, as said before, you NEED to be better-versed in musicianship and technicality to make this sound work. Come to think of it, though, even his harsh vocals don’t even have the power they had on earlier releases either- they often sound rather weak and strained, especially when compared to the balls-out fury of Under the Sign of the Black Mark- on that album he sounded downright demonic.
Alright, Now that I’ve vented a little bit, I can say that there WERE parts of the album I really liked. Two songs, to be more specific- "A Fine Day to Die", and the title track. There’s something these two songs have in common- they take a more slow-building, midpaced approach, and holy wow does it ever work. The riffs don’t sound like a slobbery mess, they sound controlled, defined, and grand. The drums don’t hold the music back; they provide a simple pace for the music to flow effortlessly around. The vocals don’t sound weak and frail, they sound like a warrior, crying out for the comrades he lost just after a great battle. Everything that plagued all the other songs has been righted with these ones, and it’s kind of sad in a way, because if the rest of the album sounded like this, I’d hail it as the masterpiece everybody else says it is… but alas.
Blood Fire Death is an album that may have single-handedly pioneered the Viking metal genre and inspired countless great bands worldwide…but I just can’t get that much enjoyment out of it. I like the idea of the album better than the actual album, and I’m sure the aesthetic and hype of the band has suckered many a soul into loving this before they actually paid attention to what’s going on, and at that point it’s too late. Masterpiece? No, more like the awkward misstep between two masterpieces. To be fair, I did enjoy the title track and "A Fine Day to Die", but tracks like "Holocaust" and "Pace ‘till Death" are just irritating messes. Normally I’d say to avoid this, but everybody loves the shit out of this album, so go ahead and check it out. What the do hell I know? Maybe you’ll see the good that I don’t in this album. Just remember I told you so.
The historical significance of Bathory is without question, and no serious party can argue otherwise. Quorthon and company were on the cutting edge, still somewhat conforming to the basic confines of established metal practices on the outer fringes of early Metallica and Slayer, but pushing the envelope far beyond what was probably thought possible at the time. However, how significant and how effectual some of Bathory’s early albums were is up for some debate, regardless of how well crafted or entertaining they might be. While a strong degree of popular sentiment is behind the colossal offering that is “Blood Fire Death”, there are certain questions that can be freely asked about how influential it actually was in comparison to past albums, or the two more distinctively stylized albums that came after for that matter.
While there is a noticeable degree of change in how the consonant and melodic characteristics of a few songs differ here from the 84-87 era, this is largely a thrash album with a strong tendency towards a black metal vocal aesthetic. If the two longest songs on here were taken out of the equation, the remains of this album could be qualified as an even dirtier and meaner answer to “Persecution Mania”, or perhaps even an equivalent to the equally savage exercise in extreme thrash metal that was Morbid Saint’s “Spectrum Of Death”. The riff assault is a pure exercise in blinding fury, not quite descending to the near atonal, heavily dissonant character of Slayer’s proto-death metal sound on “Reign In Blood”, but is near equal to the intensity of the delivery.
Despite being somewhat of a conventional exercise for 1988, this is definitely a high quality album loaded with energy and does at least hint at a soon to be change in direction. “The Golden Walls Of Heaven” is among the more powerful and riveting thrash songs in this style to break the 5 minute mark, and slays with a riff set that is largely reminiscent of the faster parts of “Hell Awaits”. “Dies Irae” takes a similarly long winded route, but has more of a “Fight Fire With Fire” feel to it, but with a far nastier vocal delivery. Quorthon’s character of voice on here is actually a tad bit closer to the agonizing character of Varg Vikernes’ sound on Burzum’s early albums, but still dark and goblin-like. But the chief feature of the thrash contents of this album (which is the majority of the songs) is the fantastical riff work and the fancy lead work. Apart from a brief little sonic joke at the beginning of “Pace ‘Till Death”, which has way too much made of it, this is a serious album to content with.
The remaining contents on here, which is credited as being Bathory’s earliest ventures into what is now known as Viking metal, could be reasonably chalked up as the token epic/progressive ventures of Metallica and Megadeth, except that the principle influence on these songs is Manowar rather than Sabbath or classical music. Both the longwinded title song and the mid-paced “A Fine Day To Die” are chock full of haunting acoustic passages with distant ambient keyboards that can’t help but hold a rather massive torch to “Sign Of The Hammer” and “Into Glory Ride”, while still containing an overall character of sound that is conducive to a slower, longer song by a number of conventional thrash bands and the vocal sound of the more extreme ones. However, these songs are more of an exception, and still largely cater to the older sound minus an occasional quiet section with a deeper clean vocal sound out of Quorthon.
To some, this is the beginning of what everyone now calls Viking metal, and given the occasional thrash tendencies of bands such as Ensiferum and Suidakra, one could say that this album had a measure of impact on the development of the style. However, this album comes off much closer to a glorified mid to late 80s thrash album with Viking oriented lyrics, which will probably appeal more to fans of Sodom and the other members of the Teutonic Trio than most who favor the Norse themed sub-genre as it exists today. Is it a great album? Yes, absolutely. But it is also an album that receives a little more credit than it deserves in shaping a style that was much more directly impacted by “Hammerheart” and “Twilight Of The Gods”.
I won’t delve too deep into the history of either Bathory or the sorely missed Tomas Forsberg, also known as Quorthon. An innovative in every sense, Quorthon inspired and pioneered in the early days. Not only did he have a hand in shaping black metal but he also forged a genre now known as Viking metal. The respect for Quorthon will run deep as long as metal is alive and, I daresay, even after its death. In terms of his discography with Bathory, it’s hard to pick out a defining moment, although many will argue that ‘Blood Fire Death’ is his grand opus, the album which immortalised his name forever. Personally, although I’ve grown to adore, love and treasure this album, his fourth and first steps into Viking metal, I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I prefer ‘Hammerheart’, his fifth full-length and second journey into the land of Vikings. However, although this may be true, my initial disappointment with this album has turned into deep admiration and a sense of longing to hear something even remotely close to its godliness.
Even the introductory song, ‘Odens Ride Over Nordland’ sends shivers down my spine. When dealing with a so-called classic, I find it very easy to become underwhelmed by the levels of expectation I put on the shoulders of a release. For example, although unrelated musically, their stories are similar - Slowdive. This is a band I once thought were overrated but, ever since my expectations were lowered and I knew what I was going to hear the second time round, after many months of having left the dust to settle, I was blown away. The exact same thing happened with Bathory’s ‘Blood Fire Death’ and, hopefully, in time, the same will happen with Bathory’s original black metal trilogy, a series of albums I’ve yet to grow to appreciate. The time for the Viking series of albums has come and albums like ‘Blood Fire Death’ are arising to meet with their fate of being labelled some of the best in the industry, as they truly deserve to be.
With Bathory’s original trilogy of history making black metal albums, I could never get into the shorter compositions. Although this album only has three songs I’d consider “long”, it feels, in general, more thought out and has a better style of writing. Bathory’s self-titled, for example, feels somewhat rushed to me. I appreciate the innovation of it, but I could never truly feel for the songs or the atmosphere the way I do with this archaic sounding masterpiece. This also explains why I prefer ‘Hammerheart’ to this particular album. The compositions are longer, leaving more time for variation and wonderful dynamics to become involved. Most, if not all, of the songs on that particular album are terrific at dealing with longer lengths. This album also deals better with longer time frames than it does short. For example, ‘A Fine Day To Die’ is a Bathory classic. At over eight minutes long, it feels worthwhile. The build-up, the middle and the ending are perfected through the use of multiple changes and craftsmanship. Some songs, like the self-titled, also deal with subtle synths, which I particularly enjoyed. They’re not overbearing and don’t have a lessened impact due to the incredible guitar work. They’re just right.
Songs like ‘The Golden Walls of Heaven’ however, feel pressed for time. As if they’re rushing their way through in anticipation for the next big song, the mammoth self-titled song, ‘Blood Fire Death’. Songs like the former are adept at what they do but they don’t have the same feeling, or inspire in the same way that the masterful longer songs do. The shorter songs tend to stick to one tempo and proceed with it until the very end whereas the longer songs are more willing to chop and change dynamics, which makes them far more exciting in terms of the story they tell, which is one of bloodied battles, dismantling armies and destroying regimes. The artwork, accompanied by the instrumentation, is sublime. I often feel that the music should elaborate on the artwork and this is precisely what the instrumentation here does and really well, too. That’s probably why I don’t have as much problem with shorter songs on albums like this because, as with the brooding ‘Pace’ Till Death’, the shorter songs build images in my head of how fragile life is, how quickly a life can end and the destruction caused by man on his fellow man.
There’s something very spiritual about the longer songs, in particular, I find. They’re much slower, very drawn out but in a good way. They deal, in my opinion, primarily with the long nature of war. How tiresome it is and how cyclical by using occasional repetition and strong, shrieked vocals, though he has the ability to alter the vocals on occasions to more of a harsh, raspy scream. The solos of each and every song are well handled and mixed in with the other instrumentation well. Each song tends to feature superb layers so you’re always mindful that several things are occurring at once and the detail is incredible, despite how grimy the production may feel, everything is audible and easily accessible to the listener. The production is something I found quite surprising, in fact. I thought it might be a bit thin but it isn’t. It suitably portrays the story of the album and does a great job of highlighting the elements which are only sparsely used but have a great affect on the album, as shown on the self-titled song in the beginning with the acoustics and synths. The drums, even, on this song are somewhat different but treated well by the production. Despite not being too knowledgeable about Bathory or Quorthon’s history, I still find it easy to love almost everything about this album.
And so it would happen, in 1988, that Quorthon would transition from the primal black chaos of his first three works (all pretty fine by their own rights), into the mightiest epic of his career. Blood Fire Death is the first Viking metal-themed work of note since Led Zeppelin's immortal "Immigrant Song", and remains to me the very highest watermark by which all other works of its kind must eventually be compared. With the exception of Enslaved (who have also written several masterpieces, though usually with a different, complex progression to them), no other band can really stress the point of 'Vikinghood' quite like this one. This album arrived alongside the top crop of the best overall year in metal history, and thousands of bands have been trying to live up to it since.
I'll note here that despite the larger, epic structure of its tracks, Quorthon retained a lot of what made his earlier albums so ripe...so vibrantly destructive and misanthropic. He has simply merged that furor with a lyrical hierarchy that means enough to him that he would continue to trace it through the remainder of his career as Bathory. But his later success would be limited...some of the works like Hammerheart, Twilight of the Gods, Blood on Ice, and Destroyer of Worlds were worthwhile, but I felt that his insistence on the cleaner, shaky vocals and ever increasing use of acoustics provided them all with an inconsistent quality. However, not the case for Blood Fire Death, which walks a straight and true path of belligerent savagery and and kicks your ass again and again for 9 tracks and 45 minutes.
It does not kick your ass with metal alone, as the intro piece "Oden's Ride Over Nordland" proves, a stunning three minute intro of thundering horses and epic choirs that hover below a gathering storm structure, gray and black clouds penetrated by the light of the suncross and the wisdom of the Father's sole, gazing eye. The track flows nicely into the acoustics that introduce "A Fine Day to Die", Quorthon adding subtle vocal flavors, and then at 1:45, all fucking hell breaks loose...and we all welcome our doom. Prepare your soul, my friends, because this is THE END. Fight or flight! Vvornth's crashing kit exclaims the immortality of the riffing to follow, and the guitars grind you into a mid-paced paradise where Valhalla calls every wayward man of honor to crush the fucking skulls of his enemies. The vocals are sick, tortured and 100% authentic gleanings into the genius that, for a brief period of years, possessed this man. The track is just over 8 and a half minutes of bewildering punishment, slowly churning along like a juggernaught of axes and screaming that cannot die until the deed is done. "The Golden Walls of Heaven" follows, and Quorthon shows that he has not abandoned the speed of his previous works, as this is a vicious and brutal punishment which channels early Kreator and Sodom-like speed/thrash into the bowels of Asgardian lore.
'Soundless wings lacerate the night
Angels of death emerge accross the sky
Thorned heads spiky limbs climb the air up high
Attack of the pearly gates
Now wait for the sign...'
Not convinced? Then the mean, crushing rhythm of "Pace 'Till Death" shall quell all doubts, an hymn of destruction that once more takes the brutal German thrashing roots to the fullest extent as it helps usher in the age of barbaric black metal. Noisy and unforgiving, with messy, hack leads and a scorching, thunderous end. "Holocaust" is another neck breaking tribute to the insanity of warfare, and once again it bears the heavily influence of insane Euro speed/thrash, with guitars so thick on acid and high on blood that you probably should be deaf after hearing them. More streaming, turbulent leads which go nowhere (except straight through my heart), and more cancerous, raw power! "For All Those Who Died" brings it back down a notch to a deadly, mid-paced battering. The way the chords ring out over the surging bass of Kothaar and the simple, stick and bash drumming is beautiful, and Quorthon again poisons the masses with the savage lamentations of his cruelty. The song is a steady five minutes of rocking, the only climax the heightened slamming of the drums over the noisy distorted rumblings in the end.
'Burning naked but smiling
Not full of fear but pride
Knowing death alone could cleanse them
Of the reasons for which they all die'
"Dies Irae" claims all your remaining lifebreath, ramming it back down your throat with a mailed fist of frost. The song is so fucking heavy that I feel like, even 20 years hence, it slowly peels off the dead cell layers of my skin with only implied, psychokinetic frost and fire. Gods, what a headache! What a beautiful, lummox of wrath and pain. And the breakdown is viler and more penetrating than an einherjer receiving the blessing of Sif between his thighs. At this point, the album is already one of the most brutal and effective metal works I've ever heard, and yet...it's not over yet. THE BEST IS YET TO COME. And it comes in the form of the title track, 10:30 of classic, immortal riffing and atmosphere that anyone worth his weight in sea salt could live and die by. The track is truly immense...the riff at 1:00 is the best 'Viking' metal riff ever written in history, so strong that I get the shivers running through my head and spine just hearing it. The way the keyboards glint above it, and Quorthon's vocals summon both the chaos of Loki and Ragnarok and the primal chaos beyond the destiny of all mankind. The bridge is even more glorious, with the vocals taking on a grim majesty, a king dethroned, a dying and rising soul. The extensive bridge of this epic breaks for some acoustics, and some surging thrash rhythms that march across the battering of the drums. There is also an outro piece which breathes like wind and thunder, but you will hardly care, because you have just been leveled and brought to your knees. What could be left of you?
Blood Fire Death is staggering. When I first heard it, I simply could not fucking believe it. I was just starting high school that year, and had to bring it in to school the day after I got the cassette, to let all the poseurs know the latest herald of their apocalypse. I may very well have transformed a half dozen glamboyant hairspray chuggers that day, and frightened away another score or more. This was something new...something savage and carnal and yet emotionally impactful. This album is a mountain. It will not move. It escalates from track to track. You can erode it with age, but its imprint will always remain, in the ground soil and dust and memory. It's mandatory listening, whether you enjoy black metal, thrash or speed metal, or Viking/folk metal. And if you've not heard it, I will arrive at your doorstep, beaten cassette in hand, one eye burning directly into you.
Highlights: The first 45:43 of the album. The final 45:43 of the album.
In 1988, Quorthon had originally recorded songs that are now available on the album Blood on Ice. He was originally going to release those songs but decided that the change would be a bit too drastic… so he recorded Blood Fire Death instead.
And what a good move that was! I like Blood on Ice and all of his other Viking metal albums a lot, but it would have been a real shame to miss out this! This album is widely regarded as the first Viking metal album ever, but in reality only 2 songs on here (3 if you count the intro) could be considered Viking metal. The rest of the album is balls-to-the-wall, poser-killing thrash. Seriously, most songs here wouldn’t sound out of place on Darkness Descends. Just like on Darkness Descends, the thrashers here sound like they’re building up to a musical armageddon. That armageddon manifests in the form of solos (“The Golden Walls of Heaven” has 3 of ‘em, which is perfectly appropriate in a song about destroying such a holy place). These songs aren’t “pure” thrash; they have blackened tinges, courtesy of Quorthon’s venomous vocals. But the sound is less lo-fi than typical black metal; the guitars have a lot more bottom end than Bathory’s previous works.
“The Golden Walls of Heaven,” “Pace ‘Til Death,” “Holocaust,” and “Dies Irae” all fit into the thrash-till-death category. My favorite of the four would probably have to be “Golden Walls.” It just sounds so relentless, especially at 1:19. The atmosphere just keeps building and building. It sounds like there's 4 guitars playing at once. Absolutely awesome.
“For Those Who Died” is kind of a midpaced thrash song. It plods along with not much creativity in the riff department, clearly the worst (or should I say “least awesome”) song on the album. A funny thing happens at the beginning of the song: the guitar plays a riff for a little bit and when the bass comes in, it’s so loud that it produces a loud distorted scratch for a second. I’m glad to see that Quorthon left the flaw in the record anyway. Quorthon didn’t let better production get to his head. Most modern bands would have taken that error out with ProTools or some other shit like that.
Now for this album’s claim to fame, Viking metal. To start off, we have a 3-minute intro. I see a number of people on this site panning intros, but I can assure everyone here that this intro isn’t like most. It has atmosphere up the ass. I feel like Oden is actually flying across the sky when I hear this one. From the start we get to hear cool sound effects of horses whinnying and battle fog moving in. It builds up to perfection with a choir and synth. This fuckin thing still gives me goosebumps when I hear it. Quorthon couldn’t start this album off any better.
Then we are treated to more epic goodness with the first proper song: “A Fine Day to Die.” It’s slow and bludgeoning. The beat is similar to that of a marching army. Stretch this song out for a couple hours and you have an instant soundtrack to the movie 300. The final Viking song is the title track, quite similar to “A Fine Day to Die,” very epic, long, and heavy. An important thing to mention is that on this song Quorthon tries clean vocals for the first time! He doesn’t use much range, since he was just starting to sing at this point. But I’d much rather hear Quorthon pace himself than try too hard (*cough* Twilight of the Gods). These two songs were some of the first tracks to take black metal and slow it down, add more melody, and give it a lyrical overhaul to depict Norse warriors.
Finally, there’s another one of Quorthon’s absolutely pointless outros to end the record. It’s a minute of a beating drum, a blowing wind, and a chant that doesn’t change pitch once. Thankfully he would abandon this tradition after the next album!
Transitional albums are great. The Beatles had Rubber Soul. Slayer had Hell Awaits. Motorhead had Bomber. Death had Spiritual Healing. Kreator had Terrible Certainty. And Bathory had Blood Fire Death. All these albums marked a paradigm shift from one classic sound to another. Quorthon ended up pioneering two different genres of metal, and he bridged the gap with this album. It is an outstanding record that should be in the collections of anybody who likes thrash, black, folk, or Viking metal.
I noticed when I was checking out this album that not a single person gave it a low review. Maybe it's just because nobody who dislikes this album is intelligent and can write a decent review, in which case I question my own intelligence for giving it a 55. None the less, I don't like this album.
I haven't been a fan of viking metal for that long, so I've just recently discovered a bunch of great bands. Bathory is one of the first groups that comes up when talking about the genre and are frequently crowned as the first viking metal band. While I'm not denying that they were the first to popularize the genre, I just think that a lot of more interesting things have happened in the genre since this album's release. I'm sure when this album was first released it was groundbreaking, and one of the most original metal albums ever, but now does it serve as anything more than a historical note?
For me, no. I can't listen to this and enjoy it more than a modern viking metal album. But now, on to the actual music. I know that this is going to really piss a lot of people off, but for the most part this just sounds like thrash metal to me. You know, the kind of stuff that Slayer revolutionized. The only differences is that Slayer decided to cut out the crap. For example, many of the songs on this album are very lengthy, but for no purpose. They start with a minute and a half of wind sound effects, then have a two minute intro with plodding power chords that don't do anything and then there's a five minute song and an outro with pointless sludge. Now, wind sound effects and lengthy songs works if you are a progressive band but when the whole purpose of your music is to sound like drunken vikings and be as brutal as possible the excess is not needed. Keep the songs short, heavy and to the point and it works better.
The band sounds skilled enough but they just don't do anything. They thrash around make loud noises and scream, which must be good fun for the musicians, but in the end isn't musically inspired. There are moments that are nice when everything clicks and it just sounds awesome, but they are few and they are usually stuck in the middle of ten minute long duds.
To conclude. I'm sure this was a breakthrough during the time it was first released, but as an album in the 21st century it fails, at least for me, to deliver anything I can't already get, but better with a band like Ensiferum. My advice, give it a sample on the computer and see what you think. You might like it, you might not, and either way makes sense to me. I however think that this is a nice addition to a metalhead's collection for it's historical aspect, but not really something to value as musically rewarding.
It’s not very often that you listen to an album that makes you wonder how in the world did an individual make such music? Well, that’s exactly what thought when I first heard Bathory’s Blood Fire Death a few years ago. For me, this is the album that defines Black Metal along with some other albums like Transilvanian Hunger or In the Nightside Eclipse; although you can’t really compare any of these albums.
Until Blood Fire Death, Bathory had released three studio albums. And the quality of the albums just got better and better after each release, and this was no exception. I mean, Under the Sign of the Black Mark was a great album; not just great, it definitely was in a class of its own. But when this album was out, it took Bathory’s and Quorthon’s name to a completely new dimension. To a level that no other black metal band had ever reached before. It changed the face of Black Metal, and I daresay, it changed the face Metal.
The album starts off with “Oden Rides over Nordland”. What a perfect name for the track! You can hear the neighing of horses in the beginning, and slowly the intensity of the background goes on increasing. Eventually, it brings up a soft choir. If you are listening to it for the first time, the choir might sound like “Carmina Burana”. Anyways, this is the track that sets the mood for the rest of the album. It generates the perfect atmosphere, and what follows this is just out of this world music. The song that follows is A “Fine Day to Die”. And this is undoubtedly the best song of the album. It might even be the best Bathory song; period.
“A Fine Day to Die” starts with a fabulous arpeggio on acoustic guitar; and this is exactly what one might entitle ‘The Calm before the Storm’. I say this because what follows this beautiful, slow intro is complete mayhem. And when it starts, I assure you, it will make you jump out of your seats. The guitars, drums and the vocals kick in simultaneously. Then, precisely at 2:05, you will listen to THE RIFF; I can’t really express this piece of sheer brilliance in words, but can indubitably say that this is one of the best riffs ever made. The instant you listen to it, your neck will start acting on its own, out of control and won’t stop until the entire album ends. You might say that I’m exaggerating here but no, I’m serious.
I’m not going into every song’s detail here, because it might take me days to portray it. There is no weak song in this album or even an average song as such. Each and every track is just mind-blowing to say the least. “The Golden Walls of Heaven” sounds more like black-thrash. This song continues and amplifies the pace that the previous song, “a Fine Day to Die” had set in. The album continues in a similar pace up to “Holocaust”. “For all those Who Died” is the next track, and it is a relatively slower than the previous songs. The word ‘relatively’ is very important here, since this song is in no way ‘SLOW’. “Dies Irae” is the next song, and again very fast. The best part of the song starts at 2:23, where there is a transition in the tempo, and picks up again when Quorthon screams ‘DIES IRAE’ followed by a blistering solo. The last real song is “Blood Fire Death”. This is my second favorite song of the album, and another one that starts with acoustic guitar, not to mention that this is the longest song of the album. There are so many parts in this song, innumerable riffs and pace shifts.
The album ends with the outro.
Simply put, this album is PERFECT.
Quorthon might not have been the best musician in metal, but he was among the unsurpassed with respect to his artistic vision. He opened up the doors to an entirely new genre within metal and paved the way with this fantastic recording. While 1984's "Bathory" and the follow-up "The Return..." were dark and dominantly satanic, Quorthon experimented with melodies that accentuated the epic nature of Norse mythology and folklore on "Under the Sign of the Black Mark", giving birth to the subgenre of Viking metal. While this album was still predominantly satanic in nature, Quorthon realized the immense potential for expressing majesty and dignity through this new style.
"Blood Fire Death" has a reputation that simply can't be challenged. While it still utilizes some of Quorthon's signature musical elements such as the long instrumental introduction and the "Outro track", the components of Norse mythology proudly and competently dominate, and the entire mixture turns out very homogeneous, literally as well as conceptually.
The galloping and charging horses take the listener from the introduction, "Oden's Ride Over Nordland", into "A Fine Day to Die", an epic eight-and-a-half minute entrance into the Nordic mission, to die honorably in battle in order to be hailed by the gods up in the great halls of Valhalla. How could anyone not think this is totally awesome? The serene acoustic guitar intro and quiet and echoed vocal verse is peaceful, purposeful and, quite honestly, brilliantly executed. In just under two minutes, the metal is ushered in, covering the entire audible spectrum, excellently mixed. The riffs change a few times before settling into the main riff for the song, which is written in 6/8 time, also sometimes known as waltz time. This has become a staple within black metal, and "A Fine Day to Die" is probably the chief reason why! The drumwork is strong and confident, steadily at a headbanging pace that doesn't leave you with whiplash, as was prominent in prior Bathory issues. Several different riffs change back and forth, along with very epic keyboard chords, giving the piece a very massive and mighty feel to it. Another strong point is the arrangement of the riffs, in that they also switch from 6/8 time to 3/2 time homogenously, so it doesn't give any impression that he's trying to be "progressive". The emphasis here is in the uniformity.
The next set of three tracks, beginning with "The Golden Walls of Heaven" carries a heavy thrash theme into the mix. The songs are heavy and quick, to the point and ending in the same fashion. "The Golden Walls of Heaven" opens with a more familiar introduction and attack, being that of moderately-paced blastbeats. This is a very thrashy song, not unlike something you'd hear on Kreator's "Pleasure To Kill", especially with respect to the rapid vocal delivery. "Pace 'till Death" follows in a very similar style, with more emphasis on the classic metal crunchy guitar, and it does not disappoint. "Holocaust" rounds out the triumvirat of thrash songs and is very much the same as "Pace 'till Death". These three songs are along the shorter side of regular songs on the album, between three-and-a-half and six minutes long.
The themes in Norse mythology continue in "For All Those Who Died", with the epic glory of keyboard chorusing replaced by heavier guitar mixes. While it is obvious that this is one of the main titles on the album, I find only one drawback to it, which is in Quorthon's vocal delivery. It sounds a bit more frenzied and less purposeful and collected. It is apparent in the way he delivers the line in the refrain, "For all ... those ... who ... DIED!" It comes off sounding a bit too breathy and angry, having slightly less meaning and impact and more attack.
"Dies Irae" returns again to the black metal thrash in the prior set of songs. While it is not covering any new ground with respect to this album, it is reinforcing the power conveyed overall. In the background you can make out some very heavy keyboard droning bass chorusing effects. Halfway through the track, the gears shift entirely into an awesome mid-paced headbanger's delight, a very memorable passage amongst a thrash titan.
Rounding out the tour of regular songs is the title track, "Blood Fire Death", the main theme to the album at ten-and-a-half minutes in length. Acoustic guitar arpeggiating chords and epic-style keyboard chorusing ushers in the metal soon to follow. Once again, the homogeneous mixture of all elements hail this track as paramount to the genre pioneered by Quorthon. His vocal delivery returns not only to a more purposeful and mighty style, but he also incorporates slight melodic toning in the death style. It is obvious, yet not enough to really analyze whether he was on-pitch... which in the opinion of a vocalist such as myself, is a brilliant tactic that is well-executed! It is important to mention that he did this as well in "A Fine Day to Die".
All in all, this album is one that should permanently remain in at least moderate rotation in the listening queue of any black metal fan. The only drawback to the album as a whole is that it can definitely lead to hearing loss when listened to loudly. This is caused by the ample representation of the entire audible spectrum in the production. The sound is crisp, at times too crisp, and the higher frequencies can be painful on the eardrums if not careful. So, adjust your volume accordingly and you should have no problem at all falling totally in love with this album! I give it a 94 out of 100.
Blood Fire Death, the fourth album by pioneering Swedish black metal band Bathory is arguably the most influential black metal album ever. Since it's release countless bands have copied the the innovations of this album.
Blood Fire Death displayed an unexpected progression from the first three Bathory albums. The first three albums, Bathory, The Return of Darkness and Evil and Under The Sign of the Black Mark were simple raw primitive black metal, whereas Blood Fire Death was much more epic, and atmospheric.
The album opens with the wonderful track Odens Ride Over Nordland, and it is quickly apparent that there is a focus on the atmosphere of the music, there are no vocals, just sounds of horses and chariots. This builds to the first real song on the album, the epic and intense A Fine Day to Die. Opening with an acoustic guitar and spoken vocals, the track builds to a powerful mid tempo song with a few amazing solos.
Blood Fire Death contains not only long mid tempo epic tracks, A Fine Day to Die, and the title track which is amazing. There are also several shorter up tempo songs, a few of which sound almost like thrash.
The songs show a progression in song writing and arrangements. Many of the songs do not use the verse chorus structure rather incorporating various riffs and acoustic passages. The lyrics have become more matrue, no longer satanic but focusing on viking history, culture and the loss of that culture at the hands of christian invaders to Scandinavia. The vocals are mostly shrieked, and sometimes buried by the guitar tone. The guitar tone is low and very distorted. The drums suit the songs very well, during the faster songs the drums are very bombstic.
Most of the second wave of black metal took their basic ideas from Blood Fire Death. If you like black metal, this is a must have, but if you like black metal then you should already own Blood Fire Death
When I stop and think about it, Vikings are pretty much awesome. I mean, for starters, they’ve got sweet helmets with horns in them, and they usually carry battle-axes (and everyone knows battle-axes are completely 100% cool). They pillaged, ransacked, drank, sailed, and did whatever the Hell else they wanted to do because they were Vikings.
So why am I talking about Vikings right now?
Because that’s all I can seriously think about when I listen to “Blood Fire Death” by Bathory.
With every riff and every growl, I can’t get the picture of a group of Vikings storming through a town center, destroying everything that they dislike.
Now, I’ll be quite upfront with you here: I’m not a big fan of black metal. Dissection and Emperor never really caught my attention, and really the only band that I find myself listening to frequently is Ulver, but that’s mainly due to the unique folk influences in their music. But thanks to a cover of “A Fine Day to Die” by Emperor, I immediately set off on a quest to uncover more Bathory. So I kicked my dog, grabbed my spear and helmet, and went off on my quest (basically, I yelled at my mother, grabbed a burrito and a new shirt, and browsed the internet).
In the great year of 1983 (in Sweden), a young boy by the name of Quorthon formed Bathory just out of fun. He was able to record just two tracks (out of generosity), but they gathered such unexpected attention that he was asked to do a full album. And thus began his career. Now, Bathory is considered to be one of the forefathers of Black Metal and Viking Metal.
Surprisingly enough, Quorthon manages vocal duties, as well as the guitar work, some percussion, and the effects on almost all of Bathory’s releases. So for the sake of proper kudos, here's the line-up for the band:
Quorthon - vocals, guitars, percussion, effects
Kothaar - bass
Vvornth - drums
“Blood Fire Death” is a bit different than your run-of-the-mill black metal outing. For starters, there’s very little atmospheric touch. This is raw, straight-forward, and blistering evil. If anything, this could almost be like thrash-black metal. However, the first two tracks might have you claiming me to be a liar. “Odens Ride Over Nordland” is a haunting intro, complete with eerie effects, cries from horses from a battlefield, and unless my ears are mistaken, the sound of flames. Then, just as it floats on, the equally chilling and calm guitar intro begins its climb, and so starts “A Fine Day to Die”. Oh, and what would be a black metal track without some chanting? Yea, there’s chanting. But just when you think you’ve figured it out, a huge wall of distortion and blasting drums hits you right in the jaw. “A Fine Day to Die” is a masterpiece, to say the least. It’s aggressive, raw, and full of hatred. Mix that in with a pounding guitar riff, a thumping bass, and pounding drums, and you’re treated to black metals finest. It’s epic, to say the least, but don’t expect this from any of the other songs (save the last). “The Golden Wall of Heaven” forgoes any of kind of beautiful opening in favor of untapped power, since it comes flying out of nowhere, gritting it’s teeth and never letting up it’s un-relentless attack. The intro to that song is all kinds of awesome, since there’s a bit of a military drum roll mixed in with a climbing guitar. And the verse riffs play victor to all, throttling the song forward at the blink of an eye. Don’t expect any type of slow down either, since “Pace ‘Till Death” is virtually the same way.
Honest to God, listening to this album is like getting punched in the fucking face. It’s literally that heavy. Also, it’s almost impossible for myself to describe the rest of the songs on here since they’re all of the same nature. “Holocaust” and “For All Those Who Died” are as equally brutal as the first few tracks, and just as amazing. “Dies Irae” is really the only different one. The song itself is equivalent to being hit in the head over and over with a sludge hammer, but at certain points, there actually seems to be a hint of melody. But the closer ("Blood Fire Death") is almost like “A Fine Day to Die”, which makes it stand out. It follows almost the same formula, as it has some chanting in the background over a quiet guitar. But then it begins to rip forward and spearhead the beginning with power. For all of you big black metal fans out there, this is probably one of the tracks that you’ll love the most, since unlike the other songs on this album, it does have a slight atmospheric touch to it. During the middle of the song, it suddenly cuts out to just a serene acoustic playing, with chanting in the background. Brilliant? I think so. But that certainly doesn’t take away from it being vicious and cruel. A wonderful way to end one of the most wicked albums I’ve ever heard.
The guitar work is also something that should be highly praised. While most of the riffs are basic and straightforward (which is why I thought this felt like thrash-black metal), the soloing is superb. One only has to listen to the soaring solos on “A Fine Day to Die” to be captivated by them. “The Golden Walls of Heaven” even features some classic whammy-bar dive bombing before Quorthon begins his shred fest. And that’s another thing: the solos aren’t melodic at all. They are balls-to-the-wall chaotic, and they don’t ever slow down. Even on the title track (which is slightly slower than most of the songs present), Quorthon never lets up his shredding duties.
And his vocals are equally as impressive. He doesn’t sing, he doesn’t talk, he just growls and screams his way through this whole album. But that’s also a bit of a drawback, and what I mean by that is that since he doesn’t have a great vocal range, it can get a bit repetitive after awhile. But he’s good at it to the point where it won’t really irritate you that much. I mean, on “Dies Irae”, he spits out his lines in a chopped fashion, adding even more frenzy to the song. It’s hard to pinpoint his best performance on this album since it all sounds alike, but if I had to choose, it’d probably be “A Fine Day to Die”, because at points he seems to wail a bit more to add a bit more emotion to the song. But it’s the lyrics that sell his vocals. Besides having one of the most intriguing lines of all time on “A Fine Day to Die” with “The elder among the men looked deep into the fire and spoke loud with pride, tomorrow is a fine day to die!”, Quorthon is a lyrical master on this album. On “For All Those Who Died”, he cries out “For all those who cried aloud, But whose tears were never heard, For questioning one almighty father, Of a heavenly distanced world.”. And while “The Golden Gates of Heaven’s” lyrics are interesting in their own right, there’s a secret message hidden in it. The first letter of each line, for every verse in the song, spells out SATAN. Take a gander, if you will:
“Silent watching gaze
Across the blackened plains
Two eyes like burning embers
Awaits the moment for the
North star to blaze ”
To me, that’s just clever. But even more clever are the lyrics to “Dies Irae”, but that involves all of the lines, so I’ll leave you to look up that one later.
This album isn’t perfect, however. While I love all of the songs, I just can’t help but point out that they all sound the same. They follow the same structure almost, and after awhile you might have to switch tunes. For instance, while “Holocaust” and “Dies Irae” have basically the same intros. Now, they’re phenomenal songs by themselves, but if you were listening to this album in whole, you’d think you were listening to the same song again.
There’s really a lack of a dominant bass on this album, however. You can hear it due to older sound-quality, but that’s really about it. It’s just there; you can hear it, but that’s all there is to it. No fills, variations, nothing. I think some more intricate bass work would’ve been nice on tracks like “Blood Fire Death”, because at points in the song (like during the acoustic section), there was room for a few notes here and there. On the other hand though, the drum work is strong. While it’s undeniably basic, he keeps the beat perfectly and never goes balls-out crazy, which is a good thing. And he can coordinate his kit pretty well to make some interesting intros, like his military-style drumming on “The Golden Walls of Heaven”.
This is easily the best black metal album that I own. With its raw power, it completely caught me off-guard. I’ve got a feeling, however, that many typical black metal fans might be put off to the thrash influence in some of these songs, but I assure you, it’s still amazing.
Overall Rating – 4.5/5 (90)
A Fine Day to Die
The Golden Gates of Heaven
Blood Fire Death
Bathory is just simply one of those bands that was spawning creations far ahead of the times. Granted that Venom is often credited for creating black metal, they truly only receive such credit due to coining the term with there 1982 album, there music is just thrash with Satanic themes. Despite being influenced intially by Venom, Bathory ended up creating a legacy of their own. Quorthon's first three albums seem embrace Satanic and occult themes, and are essentially, the first true black metal albums, as they create the raw atmosphere and demonic vocals that is a commonplace today. Blood Fire Death however, was an entirely different concept. This album is credited by being the first true viking metal album, incoporating atmospheric elements and far more epic themes.
The actual music here still features Quorthon's demonic vocals, which sound quite typical as black metal of today, yet considering this was before black metal existed really, this shows how ahead of his time Quorthon truly was. The guitars seem to be composed in a very simplistic manner, yet the riffs are quite powerful. Those present on the tracks A Fine Day To Die and The Golden Walls Of Heaven are very energetic. Some of the songs seem to focus on atmospheric repetition, for example on the title track, which is done very well, and allows the mind to almost get lost in the music at times. The title track is simply amazing, standing at over ten minutes in length, yet feels as though it still ends far too soon. This track is enhanced with a slight backing choir, which is almost haunting in it's own way. Easily the best Bathory song in my opinion, and one of the best for this genre. Bathory's lyrics are mainly about war, epic battles, fantasy, and viking oriented themes, along with some hidden Satanic messages.
This album is nothing short of a cult classic, it's hard to believe it's age really. It's eternal albums such as these that do not diminish as time goes on. Thats how you know it's special.
This album, Bathory’s fourth offspring, began an evolution for the band, a slide away from pure black metal towards a sort of epic Viking music, not totally dissimilar to Manowar’s more grandiose moments. For me, the results of said influence were not among the best ideas Quorthon would provide his audience with, but as far as Blood Fire Death is concerned, the balance of both styles is a fine compromise. And WOW, for the first time other band members (Wornth and Kothaar of the great Norwegian tribe of unpronounceable warriors) are actually named and pictured!! If in fact they actually perform or not is a question of some mystery, but no matter, the album is a feast of moods and metal all the same.
Opening with the truly atmospheric “Odens Ride Over Nordland”, we segue into the ethereal acoustic intro to “A Fine Day to Die,” which is easily one of Quorthon’s finest epic tales ever. Better sound than ever gives new life to the guitars in the mix, while the drumming is as booming as it was on “Under the Sign of the Black Mark”. More mid-tempo blasphemy makes itself manifest in “The Golden Walls of Heaven”, while “Dies Irae” is an all out thrashing whirlwind that stands as one of the better raging numbers in the band’s arsenal. I must admit that “Pace 'Til Death” is just plain silly, but the album redeems itself with plenty credibility to spare as the EPIC title song spreads itself across most of the record’s second side. An acoustic start, a raw riff, a mid-tempo grind, and an ethereal chorus backed up by what sounds like orchestral kettledrums combine gives this cut an otherworldly resonance. A black metal opera unto itself, its power would rarely be equaled by and BM contenders.
From here Bathory’s path became crooked in my view. For the next two albums (Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods) the Viking rock took over, the band returning to BM brutality although half-heartedly thereafter. Sadly we can’t look to Bathory for more material of this ilk, given Quorthon’s untimely demise recently. But never you mind, the three Bathory albums I review here are essential metal classics – All Hail!!
This album is damn near artistic perfection. Bathory blends classical structure and theory with modern music years prior to the popularization of this concept in black metal. The intro track shows this fascination that Quorthon had acquired with classical music. "A Fine Day to Die" sets the stage by introducing the battle and viking themes early on in the album, sounding production-wise centuries old, faded but not wrinkled with time. The rest of the album holds this sound and atmosphere well, yet has more energy in the tracks, ditching the "2-minute intro" approach found in "A Fine Day to Die."
This album is extremely enjoyable to listen to, and makes you want to dust off the ol' viking cap and have a go at another nation. It's beautiful, in that regard. The vocals are discernable, yet included the scream not quite popularized yet in black metal - another element placing Bathory above the rest (especially at the time). They feel rushed at parts, yet rightfully so, as the music often feels lightning fast, whether or not it's simply mid-tempo.
Some parts of songs feel like Venom in guitar simplicity, yet it's still wonderfully done, with much less cheese to be found here. Dark, but still not hyperbole. Bathory strays away from Venom's humorous take on Satanism and occult themes in this album.
The best part? I'd have to say it's "Blood Fire Death," a war anthem that's perfect for running, weights, everything. This is one of the greatest pieces ever composed, and is executed so well that it sounds eternally old, yet seems not to age like most. It's epic sounding, and it's worth buying the album just for this track.
Holy shit-crackers, it's the ancient black-metallers Bathory with a release that doesn't sound like the production studio manager was jerking off on the job! First album I listened to by these guys was "Under the Sign of the Black Mark", and that would have been so much better if there was some sort of balance between the bass and guitars. No matter. A nod to Bathory is a nod to one of the first black metal bands of all time. So if you don't like them, fuck off. Now for the review:
The album starts off with a horse neighing in the background, eerie atmospheric music playing. The horse begins it's charge and as the track progresses, you hear a chorus in the background doing a Lord of the Ringsy chant. The track comes to a climax and shifts into the second one with light accoustic guitar playing a dark melody. The melody continues on, Quorthon singing softly in the background. Then a pause. BAM! Guitars blare and the drums kick in. The vocalist lets out a painful cry of "AAAUUGH!" The track proceeds to ruin your shit with shredding guitars, fast-paced drums, insane guitar solos, and classic Bathory vocals in an almost epic song.
That is the greatest fucking opening to an album I have ever heard in my entire life.
The rest of the album's tracks aren't nearly as long as the first two that are combined. They usually clock in at about four and a half minutes, but are just as equally fast and grim. Each and every single one of them. This album, I can almost say, is fucking perfect. All the instruments on this album are well balanced and to say the least, very fucking talented.
Then there's the second to last track before the out. The track titled after the album. "Blood Fire Death". Who needs subtly when you get this? This track is just as epic-like as the first one. Mixing in accoustic guitars at the beginning to help add to the macabre atmosphere of the album.
If you like black metal, you will get this.
RIP Ace Quorthon Borje Forsberg
Listen closely to this album. Hear that? It's simplicity itself.
Yep, nothing complicated or overly technical here, just a damned fine metal album. Quorthon kept the recipe simple. The riffs are basic but memorable. The solos are used sparingly, but effectively. Most of the drumming is simple snare/kick with the odd fill, and played at different tempos. Quorthon will never be an opera singer, but he put everything into the vocals. There is the odd atmospheric bit, like galloping horses and spectral choirs, but overall, it is all pared back to the absolute basics of metal.
You can hear the origins of much of the raw Black Metal sound of Darkthrone and Mayhem here. Perhaps the biggest difference is Bathory's warmer, fuller production. It seems like Motorhead's philosophy of "everything louder than everything else" was put into practice here. There is a noticeable static/white noise edge to a number of the guitar parts. When Quorthon lets rip with a throaty growl, like at the beginning of "For All Those Who Died", you can almost imagine the studio sound engineer pulling his hair out as needles and gauges across the studio console overload and redline.
Moreover, perhaps because the music has been kept so simple, it has an air of majesty. It demands attention. This is not an album you can listen to quietly while reading a book. You have to notice it; you just don't have a choice. It seems like everything here is mighty Nordic imagery and Viking warriors on a quest for Valhalla, war axes raised high in battle, and on a couple of the tracks, like "Holocaust" and the title track this is true. A peek at the lyric sheet though, hints at a vein of humour hidden in plain sight.
Check "Pace Til Death" for example. It is an ode to playing fast and living fast and almost seems like it was lifted from a Motley Crue album. It is impossible to tell from the delivery. In addition, Quorthon has had fun with acrostics on some of the other tracks– take the first letter from each line of the lyrics and you get a message. "The Golden Walls Of Heaven" spells out SATAN repeatedly, while "Dies Irae" gives us the message "CHRIST THE BASTARD SON OF HEAVEN".
Minor silliness aside, 'Blood Fire Death' is an essential album for fans of Black and Death Metal. It is one of those odd releases with a foot firmly in both camps, and can be equally appreciated by fans of both genres.
This is the single most brutal, yet beautiful album I have ever heard.
Oden's Ride Over Nordland, the album's three minute intro, showcases just how epic this album is. Horses, gongs, rumbling mountains- it almost makes you feel as though the Ragnarok is about to happen. Actually, it basically does happen on this disc.
A Fine Day to Die-Quorthon brilliantly starts and ends this album with two long, epic skullkrushers, while filling the middle with blistering, skin flaying thrash. You could almost compare it to Reign in Blood, where the two longer songs (although a whopping 4 minutes on RIB) begin and end the disc. Just when you are about to become mesmerized by this song's intro, one of the most gut wrenching riffs ever brings you back into reality and completely destroys you. The song then proceeds to break your face for 7 more minutes.
The Golden Walls of Heaven-The first of the 5 thrash songs on the disc. Fairly straightforward, the song progressively gets better and goes into a sweet riff at 3:33, before ending with a THIRD solo.
Pace 'Till Death- Jesus Christ. Listen to that intro. At the 33 second drum hit, your neck is guaranteed to be wrecked by the end of this song. The lyrics here deal with racing motorcycles or cars or something I believe. 1:50 is where this song turns into a total speed fest that threatens to crush your brain into oblivion. Mirror Mirror on the wall, who's the fastest of them all? Fucking godly.
Holocaust-Probably the weakest song on the album, which isn't saying too much. I think the intro here sounds a little to close to Dies Irae, which is placed right after it on the CD. If you look at the lyrics, the first letter of each line spells "SATAN" and keeps repeating the pattern.
Dies Irae- One of the heaviest songs I've ever heard. Like Morbid Angel's opening riff in "God of Emptiness", this riff sounds like it came from the depths of hell. Blistering speed metal until 2:22 and then- Another one of the most awesome riffs I've ever heard. This song is somewhat comparable to "Equimanthorn" in the way it abruptly breaks down into a slower, chugging riff. Quorthon adds a faster part and another solo before ending the song.
Blood Fire Death- This song is fucking god. In the vein of A Fine Day to Die, this is a more viking oriented song, and foreshadows the transition from thrash/black to the Hammerheart era. The "chanting" backing vocal in this song reminds me of Norfair's music in "Super Metroid", it's fucking great. Somewhere near 7 minutes, the song breaks into a slow galloping riff that almost embodies victory, it's that epic. The song goes back into the main riff and then fades out with acoustic guitars.
Amazing, amazing disc-never gets old and never fails to thouroughly brutalize with every listen.
Yes, this became more atmospheric and spacious, with something Bathory had not been known for previously--dynamics!--but DAMN, is this an incredible album! It features better production and musicianship than previous efforts, and you can even hear the bass here and there, a trashy distorted tone that underlies Quorthon's trademark chainsaw guitar massacre perfectly. The drums are tighter than in the past, too, since it was someone other than Quorthon laying them down (Vvoornth, it was, if I recall rightly). It's still trebly as all hell and thin compared to many releases, but that is part of the old Bathory charm, right?
From his usual ambient intro ("Odin's Ride Over Nordland", a haunting and eerie piece, one of his best) to the slaughterfest of "A Fine Day To Die", the albums starts off strong and doesn't let up. The usual 100mph thrash establishes itself afterward with "The Golden Walls Of Heaven", and the tighter playing makes it even more effective, as is the case with the other fast numbers on here, like "Holocaust" (the countdown near the end of this just builds and builds, and still puts me on the edge of my seat to this day!). But this album saw Quorthon slowing down more and incorporating more subtle (!) elements into his lethal and pioneering black metal mixture, and it was for the better because it enabled much of the metal community to take him more seriously. And the Viking-oriented lyrical content was well-written, not just cheesey Manowar wannabe stuff (no disrespect intended to the Kings of Metal, natch)--though Quorth IS a Manowar fan, now that I think of it. In any event, this was on e of the last really good Bathory albums released before he got it into his head he could actually sing instead of scream like a witch (he's waaay better at the screaming, IMO) and started exploring the more doomy, then more hard rock oriented sounds of his following albums, which lost me a bit. If you can snag this album, by all means do, as it is important to the evolution of Black Metal as we know it today.
The first ”viking” metal album Bathory released... atleast lyricly, the music is best described as thrash-metal with blackish growling vocals and its really awesome! I think It was planned to be released as a double-album with material from “Blood On Ice”, “Valhalla” from “Hammerheart” and “In Nomine Satanas” among other songs, but lets talk about the songs that achually are on here:
Odins Ride Over Nordland: This is an awesome intro! Even though its 3min long it really creates a good atmosphere...
A Fine Day To Die: This song is a riff-machine! The most perfect riffs for a opening song ever possess this song, this is probably the best Bathory song there is... don´t really know what to say, its just awesome...
The Golden Walls Of Heaven: Pure kick-ass thrash song with some Slayer influences! One of the better songs on the album
Pace till Death: Another great thrash-ripping song, this time I detect some Kreator influences but it really kicks ass! Has a cool (and funny) intro too!
Holocaust: A good song, but with strong competition from so great songs it doesn´t stands out too much...
For All Those Who Died: This song is a little different then the other, a little bit more mellow... not the best song on the album but a good refreshment
Dies Irae: Man what a kick-ass song! A real headbanger with a awesome part at 2:25! One of my favorites on the album!
Blood Fire Death: The last and most epic song on the album! And can only be matched by “A Fine Day To Die”, it has some keboards in the background that sounds really awesome! This is a perfect way to close the album with, also one of Bathorys best songs up to date!
This must be my favorite Bathory album! If you don´t like the epic viking stuff because of Quorthons clean vocals or the early Bathory album because they are to primitive then give this a try! Its really awesome both vocaly and musicly, even for those who don´t like the first few albums or the viking albums. Your metal cd-collection will stand incomplete without this album!
That song title clear sums up this thrash metal monster. Fast, merciless thrash metal with screechy growls, much more lethal than anything Quorthon will ever do, or has done vocally. The production is cleaned up from the previous three releases, and is done much faster and far heavier, as if it was Kreator's evil little brother. That is why this is Bathory's best release IMO.
Odin's Ride Over Nordland - This intro totally blows away Storm of Damnation, and most other album intros in general. Dark chants, symphonic music and the roar of thunder blare away in the background while the sound of a horse cries out, giving the listener a mental image of this Nordic god, Odin, riding out over a vast land. Speaking of Kreator earlier, Choir Of The Damned can't even touch this.
A Fine Day To Die - An acoustic guitar intro and soft, whisper-like vocals open up this masterpiece, but it's not long before the heaviness and growls kick in all at once, followed by a mid-paced beat and crushing riffs that bombard the listener. This is one of Bathory's all-time best songs, and the second best on the album. The solo will ripp you open a new asshole. Vocally, Quorthon sounds better than ever. He doesn't screech so much on this tune, but he still delivers a killer vocal performance. The entire song itself is very epic, but lethal at the same time.
The Golden Walls Of Heaven - Here's where the album really starts to give Kreator a run for the money. Quorthon's growls and screeches here are unbelievable, and the blazing fast speed remains constant through out the entire song. As for the riffage, well, it crushes the golden walls of heaven thsemselves.
Pace 'Till Death - "Mirror mirror on the wall I'm the fastest of them all!!!!!!"...I just love that line. I mean, that line clearly describes this track quite accurately, for it is the fastest song on the album, not only pace and riff wise, but Quorthon sounds like a fucking maniac burning in Hell, more than he usually does. One particular thing I noticed about the beginning of this song is its intro. There is this little Teacher's Pet-ish guitar lick, no joke. I doubt this is just a "coincidence" to Venom, like the debute album was.
Holocaust - This song is almost as fast as the previous track, and is just about as vicious. The solos in between the verses absolutley slay, and the main riffage is no less tame. One thing that deserves some mention as well about this song is the countdown towards the end just before the sound of a bomb explodes in the background behind the music. Probably one of the main highlights in the overall album.
For All Those Who Died - Very nice groove riffs and mid-paced beat. This song probably has the catchiest riffage through out the entire album. As for the vocals, well Quorthon screeches non-stop, particularly during the chorus..."For all those who diiiiiiiiiiiieeed"....sheesh!
Dies Irae - Okay....this is as lethal and brutal as the album gets. It puts Pace 'Till Death to shame! I mean, I take back what I said about Pace 'Till Death being the fastest on the album, because this one blows it away. Yes, it does slow down for about a minute, but the speed resumes 'till the very end. Speaking of the end, the song's ending is just amazing, like a bunch of bombs exploding in the air...
Blood Fire Death - Ah, here we have the greatest song, not only on the album itself, but this, in my opinion, is Bathory's greatest song ever. A 10+ minute epic that begins with acoustic guitars and chants just like Fine To Day To Die did, but this song is far superior to it in every way. Strong, catchy and mid-paced, that's what this song is. Speaking of pace, that's another similarity that this song has to A Fine Day To Die, but I say once again, this song is far superior. The chants in the beginning of the song do no cut off once the heaviness kicks in, they go along with the main riffage of the entire song, which add to the mood and give the listener a mental image of a Nordic battle taking place. As for Quorthon's vocals, well, they're the most tamed out on this track, and are more or less just a raspy vox, rather than a growl.
So overall, this is an amazing, phenominal track, and is everything EPIC should be.