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Bathory

In a musical realm where scale of influence has little to do with commercial success, few originators of the extreme metal arts evoke as deepa sense of mystery, or incite such hushed, reverential tones of admiration, as Sweden's Bathory. Essentially a one-man operation helmed bythe mysterious Quorthon, Bathory's development from the rawest form of embryonic black metal, to thrash, death, and back to its self-devised Viking-themed black metal, has mirrored and regularly defined the genre's very evolution. Indeed, along with Switzerland's CelticFrost, Germany's Kreator, and Denmark's Mercyful Fa ...read more

In a musical realm where scale of influence has little to do with commercial success, few originators of the extreme metal arts evoke as deepa sense of mystery, or incite such hushed, reverential tones of admiration, as Sweden's Bathory. Essentially a one-man operation helmed bythe mysterious Quorthon, Bathory's development from the rawest form of embryonic black metal, to thrash, death, and back to its self-devised Viking-themed black metal, has mirrored and regularly defined the genre's very evolution. Indeed, along with Switzerland's CelticFrost, Germany's Kreator, and Denmark's Mercyful Fate, they easily qualify as one the most important European extreme metal acts of the'80s and '90s. The Swedish-born multi-instrumentalist Quorthon (also known as Black Spade and/or Ace Shoot, although his real name,Thomas Forsberg, is still the subject of debate) formed Bathory in 1983 with sidemen Hanoi (bass) and Vans (drums). These two would soonbe ejected, however, just as soon as they'd completed work on two of thebest tracks heard on 1984's now infamous Scandinavian MetalAttack compilation. Influenced by every form of speed metal known to man at the time(which,admittedly,wasn't much), Bathory soon stakeda claim as Scandinavia's answer to Motörhead and Venom (from whose song"Countess Bathory"they attained their name). And, like Venom'searly work, Bathory too were challenged by the downright primitive recording conditions of Heavenshore Studios (actually a converted cargarage and storage space) --limitations which inadvertently set the rough, uncompromising template that was later carefully scrutinized andaccepted as gospel by generations of black metal-metal musicians. In fact, 1984's eponymous debut and its like-minded successor, 1985'sTheReturn were so inaccessible, so unprecedented in their abrasive anti-commercialism, as to be ahead of their time, carving an icheall their ownwithin this quickly developing subgenre. Interestingly,the additional curiosity that Bathory rarely performed live (and never, after 1985),andthat these recording provided almost no information about its constituents (which,aside from main man Quorthon, briefly included variousanonymous bassists and drummers going by the monikers Kothaar and Vvornth) only added to their cult-like mystique over time. Not eventhis promising start was enough to sustain Bathory's momentum within such limited stylistic boundaries, however, and, after exhausting thepossibilities of rudimentary black metal with his first two efforts, Quorthon realized that a creative face-lift was necessary. Sure enough, overthe course of their third and fourth albums, 1987's transitional Under the Sign:The Sign of the Black Mark and 1988's watershed BloodFireDeath, Bathory re-focused its interests -- away from rock & roll-based arrangements and towards a more purely Europeanaesthetic.Graduallyincorporating symphonic elements drawn from classical music into its black and death metal base, by thetime ofBlood Fire Death Quorthonhad abandoned most of the rote Satanic/Christian-bashing lyrics of yore, and embraced the pagan themes and Viking mythology of hisancestors. This anthemic approach culminated in what many consider to be Bathory's finest hour,1990's landmark concept opusHammerheart. Part quantum leap, part continuation of Blood Fire Death's sketches,the album in no way recalled Bathory's humble origins,and provided the archetype for 1991's nearly-as-reveredTwilight of theGods, toboot. Confirming the impact of thisvision, these three workshelped ignite a surge of patriotismthrough music forcountless Scandinavian youths, whosubsequently begancelebrating their pre-Catholicismcultural heritage.Sadly, whilecommendable for encouraging a self-contained and highly inventivelocal scene(featuring Mayhem,Emperor,Darkthrone etal.), this movement also sowed the seeds for future acts of hateful vandalism (as ghoulish astheywere absurd)andoutrightmurder at the hands of a small extreme contingent. Ironically, Quorthon himself had by now grown wearyofthestereotypesand artistictrappings of the revolution he'd helped galvanize. Feeling uninspired to write any new music in thatvein,heabruptlyannounced Bathory'sdemise and spent the next two years compiling the Jubileum, Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and Vol.3collections. When his desiretocompose finally did return,the music he came up with was so unlike anything everreleasedunder the Bathory banner, that he chose to put out1994'ssimply namedAlbum under the Quorthon moniker instead.Filledwith surprisingly straightforward alternative rock, the recordneverthelessrevitalizedQuorthon's interest in heavy metal,and anew Bathory L.P, Requiem (released later that year), saw a return to thesimple, brutal thrashmetalofyesteryear.Subsequent Bathory efforts gradually upped the ante once again, as longer songs and more complexdeath,black, andevenindustrialmetal elements were cautiously added to the mix for 1995's Octagon. In turn, 1996's ultra-doomy,ConantheBarbarian-inspired Blood onIce marked areturn to the Viking metal style, and offered a retooled collection ofpreviouslyabandoned sessionsfrom seven years earlier. But,besides proving thatthis epic style was back in his plans, thealbum'sgreatest reward may have lain in theextensive liner notes penned byQuorthon. These not onlyexplained the longoverduealbum's release, but also revealed a significant amount ofinformation about Bathory's untilthen very murky history --almostto the point of upsetting older fans' long-held theories and expectations oftheir hero, ironically enough.1997'ssecondQuorthon set, the doubledisc Purity of Essence, arrived next, and again served as a repository fornon-Bathory-like ideas;and the thirdinstallment of the Jubileum 'best of'series arrived a year later to close yet another chapter,and signalanotherextended layoff. Inevitably,however, Quorthon resurrected Bathory onceagain in 2001; his new albumDestroyer of Worldsinauguratinga new phase at first characterized bya more streamlined, rock-oriented approach,whilestriking a maturebalance with the grand scope of workspast. But those Viking inclinations wereonce again brought to the foreon thesubsequent,twin-album project Nordland, part one of which wasreleased in late 2002, and part twoarriving in2003.Unfortunately, this return to both the style andform of old glory would prove to beBathory's swan song, when, withanumber ofas-yet-unreleased demos already under his belt, Thomas Forsberg --the living black metal legendknownasQuorthon -- was found dead in hisStockholm apartment on June 7, 2004, apparently a victim of heart failure.With hisdeath,so diesBathory, although there is no doubt that hiscareer-long record label Black Mark (owned and operated byQuorthon'sfather) willeventuallyunveil any unreleased Bathory material which maystill lie in their vaults. « hide

Similar Bands: Moonsorrow, Darkthrone, Venom, Falkenbach, Hellhammer

LPs
Nordland II
2003

3.6
299 Votes
Nordland I
2002

3.7
359 Votes
Destroyer of Worlds
2001

2.4
229 Votes
Blood on Ice
1996

3.7
360 Votes
Octagon
1995

1.7
365 Votes
Requiem
1994

2.3
295 Votes
Twilight of the Gods
1991

3.9
539 Votes
Hammerheart
1990

4.2
911 Votes
Blood Fire Death
1988

4.4
1,388 Votes
Under the Sign of the Black Mark
1987

4.2
961 Votes
The Return of the Darkness and Evil
1985

3.8
625 Votes
Bathory
1984

3.9
954 Votes
Compilations
In Memory of Quorthon
2006

4.6
7 Votes
Nordland I & II
2003

3.9
8 Votes
Katalog
2001

3.2
13 Votes
Jubileum Volume III
1998

3.5
21 Votes
Jubileum Volume II
1993

3.9
20 Votes
Jubileum Volume I
1993

3.8
23 Votes

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