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BATHORY - Blood Fire Death cover
4.12 | 49 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1988

Filed under Black Metal


1. Odens Ride Over Nordland (3:00)
2. A Fine Day to Die (8:36)
3. The Golden Walls of Heaven (5:22)
4. Pace 'till Death (3:40)
5. Holocaust (3:25)
6. For All Those Who Died (4:57)
7. Dies Irae (5:12)
8. Blood Fire Death (10:30)
9. The Winds of Mayhem (Outro) (0:59)

Total Time: 45:44


- Quorthon / vocals, guitars
- Kothaar / bass
- Vvornth / drums

About this release

Label: Under One Flag / Black Mark
Release date: October 8th, 1988

Recorded in February, 1988, at Heavenshore Studio, Stockholm, Sweden.
Produced by Boss and Quorthon.
Album cover design by Quorthon.
Album cover painting by Peter Nicolai Arbo.
Album fold-up photo by Pelle Mattéus.

Thanks to Vehemency, Unitron, Vim Fuego for the updates


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Blood Fire Death marks one of the most clear improvements in a band I’ve seen. Bathory’s first album spawned true first wave Black Metal, and the two that followed delivered more quality yet samey material. All were very consistent packages of thrashy Black Metal with amateurish musicianship, horrible production and yet some sort of incredibly alluring interest factor that made it all sound right. On Blood Fire Death, Bathory opted to stop delivering more of the same and put the bar way higher.

Here, they abandon all their weaknesses. The music, while still simple oftentimes, is played fast and sharp; gone are the messy notes and offbeat drums, and in addition there are moments of great skill displayed as well. More importantly, the band continues to focus on mood and use their greater skill to craft awesomely aggressive and sinister soundscapes rather than showing off. The production is also much better here, and somehow they manage to hit a fantastic sweet spot between keeping the raw grit of true Black Metal and keeping all the instruments audible and sounding great. The riffs switch between moody Black and aggressive Thrash riffing and both play off each other perfectly, and despite liking previous Bathory albums, I find the riffs here to be all around much better and more memorable, maybe no small thanks to the guitars being clearly audible.

The band also capitalizes on their strengths. I said their previous albums were consistently good yet samey; this album delivers 7 consistently amazing songs that all have very distinct sounds to them. Opting for a more epic sound (but no less evil and thankfully no less serious), the band adds some keys and synths (usually choirs) here and there, and it works fantastically. They never overdo it, adding just enough to accentuate the songs and add to the individuality of each composition. The obviously synthed sounds might sound cheesy in other cases, but here the synths being not so high quality actually matches the raw mixing and ends up creating this sound that is just somehow off in the best way.

The last thing I’ll say is Quarthon finally perfected his voice. My god that hollow, raspy call is amazing. He even manages to add a lot of variety to the way he screams, switching it up to serve each song individually, and adding a ton of passion to it when he tries. Simply one of the best voices I’ve heard in metal. The lyrics are great too, ranging from the first signs of the Viking themes, to old school Satanic madness, all with peak delivery.
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.
Bathory's fourth album is a staggering advance in their sound, which puts their preceding proto-black metal works into the shade. With clearer than ever production bringing out the complex thrash-influenced side of Quorthon's guitar playing, the album sits right on the knife-edge between blackened thrash and "thrashened black", with the lyrical themes leaning more on Viking themes than ever before (though a few Satanic spots creep in here and there). Though Quorthon's vocal performance is, if anything, even more bestial than ever before, Blood Fire Death sees the band moving on to lyrical themes which they clearly take more seriously than the Satanism, vampires and Countess Bathory worship of preceding albums. A classic of the genre.

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