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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!!