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A magnificent pioneer album in black metal. - 94%

SvalbardDave, January 29th, 2008

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.