Review

BATHORY Blood Fire Death

Album · 1988 · Black Metal
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4.5/5 ·
Vim Fuego
Listen closely to this album and you will hear simplicity.

Yep, nothing complicated or overly technical here, just a damned fine metal album. One-man-band Quorthon kept the recipe simple. The riffs are basic but memorable. The solos sparing, but effective. Most of the drumming is simple snare/kick with the odd fill, and played at different tempos. Quorthon was not 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 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 Motörhead's philosophy of "everything louder than everything else" put into practice. 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 redline and overload. A couple of tracks, like “Holocaust” and the title track, are full of mighty Nordic imagery, Viking warriors on a quest for Valhalla, war axes raised high in battle. Moreover, because the music is so simple, it has an air of majesty. It demands attention. This is not background music. You have to notice it; you just don't have a choice. A peek at the lyric sheet 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 could have been lifted from a Motley Crüe 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 appreciated by fans of both genres.
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