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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.