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Music / Bathory

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Tomas "Ace" Börje Forsberg, better known as "Quorthon". Founder and sole member of Bathory, during most of its existence.

"People of Asa land... it has only just begun!"

Bathory was formed in Stockholm in 1983. Founder Quorthon, a seventeen year old guitarist, was joined by bassist Hanoi and drummer Vans. After various name changes (beginning with Nosferatu, then Natas, Mephisto, Elizabeth Bathory, and Countess Bathory) they finally settled on Bathory. Their first recording deal came that same year, when Quorthon managed to secure the consent of Tyfon Grammofon's boss to record two tracks for the compilation Scandinavian Metal Attack. The tracks which he recorded gained unexpected attention by fans. Soon afterward, Tyfon Grammofon contacted Quorthon and asked him to record a full-length album.

Although Venom's Black Metal, released in 1982, was the first record to coin the term, it was Bathory's early albums, featuring Satanic lyrics, blisteringly fast instrumentation, low-fi production and an inhuman vocal style, that defined the genre's first wave. Many fans have speculated Venom was an influence on Bathory; however, Quorthon stated in an interview with Kick Ass magazine in 1985 he only heard of Venom after the first, self-titled Bathory album was released. He also revealed that he wasn't very into the popular heavy metal bands at the time like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, with the band's early work instead drawing primarily upon Black Sabbath, Motörhead, and Hardcore Punk.

Bathory's self-titled debut album and the subsequent releases The Return and Under the Sign of the Black Mark are now regarded as cornerstones of the first wave of black metal, and were also major influences on the Norwegian bands who comprised the second wave of black metal throughout the 1990s.

The first signs of what was to follow appeared on what many fans consider to be Bathory's best album, Blood Fire Death, on which some of the tracks the pace had slowed down to allow for a more epic songwriting approach, said to be an influence on, or initiation of, the extreme metal sub-genre of viking metal. The Viking theme was also first introduced on this album. However, most of the musical elements of black metal were still present.

With the release of Hammerheart Bathory had changed style towards less aggressive, more epic and atmospheric music; the lyrics dealt with themes about Vikings and Norse mythology. Partially influenced by the American power metal band Manowar, Hammerheart was a landmark album that "formally introduced" to the metal world the "archetypical Viking metal album." The style of Hammerheart was further demonstrated on the subsequent Twilight of the Gods and Blood on Ice (the latter of which was mostly recorded before Hammerheart in 1989, but not finished or released until 1996 because Quorthon thought it would be too radical a departure from his previous work for fans to process).

With Requiem, released in 1994, Bathory changed style once more, this time turning to retro-thrash in the vein of 1980's Bay Area thrash bands. In later years, many saw Bathory's output as increasingly erratic, as the band returned again to Viking themes and, with the Nordland albums of 2002 and 2003, largely abandoned the retro-thrash sound of the mid-1990's in favour of the more popular, more epic style for which they are best known.

In June 2004, Quorthon was found dead in his home, apparently due to heart failure. He was known to suffer from heart problems in the past. On June 3, 2006, Black Mark Records released a box set in tribute to Quorthon containing three CDs of his favorite Bathory and Quorthon songs, a 176 page booklet, a DVD with his long-form video for "One Rode to Asa Bay", an interview, some rare promo footage, and a poster.

Core discography

  • Bathory (1984)
  • The Return...... (1985)
  • Under the Sign of the Black Mark (1986)
  • Blood Fire Death (1988)
  • Hammerheart (1990)
  • Twilight of the Gods (1991)
  • Requiem (1994)
  • Octagon (1995)
  • Blood on Ice (1996, but mostly written in 1989)
  • Destroyer of Worlds (2001)
  • Nordland I (2002)
  • Nordland II (2003)

Bathory provides examples of:

  • Album Intro Track: Most of their albums. "Odens Ride over Nordland" is one of the most famous.
  • Audio Adaptation:
    • The lyrics in the intro to "A Fine Day to Die" are taken from "Cassilda's Song" in The King in Yellow.
    • The lyrics to "For All Those Who Died" are taken from a poem by Erica Jong.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: Many songs, including "A Fine Day to Die", "Blood Fire Death", "Shores in Flames", and "The Revenge Of The Blood On ice" are about this.
  • Blood Bath: Not only does the band share a name with the Trope Maker, Elizabeth Bathory, but they've also penned a handful of songs that are specifically about their namesake as well as hint at this practice, especially the song "Woman of Dark Desires."
  • Chronological Album Title: Octagon. It's the eighth studio album.
  • Concept Album: Blood on Ice, about a boy who is the Sole Survivor of a brutal attack upon his village and goes to live in the forest for 15 years before a one-eyed old man trains him to fulfill his destiny.
  • Cultured Badass: Quorthon's all-time favorite band and biggest inspiration was The Beatles. He even did a straight, unironic cover of "I'm Only Sleeping" under the Quorthon moniker; it was initially released on the Black Mark Tribute Vol. 2 compilation and again, posthumously, on In Memory of Quorthon.
    • His solo album Purity of Essence is named after Arc Words from Dr. Strangelove.
    • Funnily enough, Jonas Åkerlund, Bathory's original drummer, would direct the video for Paul McCartney's "Lonely Road" many years later.
  • Creator Thumbprint: All of the first five albums contain an almost identical outro track, usually entitled "The Winds of Mayhem". The outro of Nordland II serves as a Call-Back to this.
  • Echoing Acoustics: Many of the earlier albums have reverb-drenched production, most apparently Hammerheart.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Twin-Headed Beast from "Blood On Ice"
  • Embarrassing First Name: Ace Börje Forsberg was the name written on Quorthon's obituary, but his real birth name was Tomas, which he never publicly revealed during his life. If interviewers asked him his real name, he always gave invented ones; Runka Snorkråka (Wanked Snot(hodded)crow), Pär Vers (a wordplay, means perverted), Fjärt Bengrot (Fart Bengrot), Folke Ostkuksgrissla, and Fnoret, to name a few. This was probably both to play a lighthearted trick on the press, which Quorthon enjoyed, and to cultivate his somewhat elusive, mythical image as a part of Bathory.
  • Epic Rocking: Bathory's Viking Metal output is pretty much the definition of this trope (especially Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods). "Enter the Eternal Fire" from Under the Sign of the Black Mark is also an example.
  • Every Episode Ending: All of their early albums have a nearly identical outro track called "The Winds of Mayhem."
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Odens Ride over Nordland" into "A Fine Day to Die."
    • A lot of them, really. Every Album Intro Track does this; there are also the first three songs on Twilight of the Gods, "The Rite of Darkness" into "Reap of Evil", "Song to Hall up High" into "Home of Once Brave", "Nordland" into "Vinterblot", "Ring of Gold" into "Foreverdark Woods", "Blooded Shore" into "Sea Wolf", etc.
  • Fighting for a Homeland: The 'viking' albums deal with this quite often.
  • Götterdämmerung: The title track of Twilight of the Gods. "One Rode to Asa Bay" can be seen as describing the beginnings of this for the old Nordic faith as the native culture is erased by Christianization.
  • Gratuitous Latin: "Dies irae" means "Day of Wrath" in Latin; it's also named after a hymn.
  • Grim Up North: The Blood on Ice album.
  • Harsh Vocals: Mostly on his early Black Metal albums — he pretty much invented the particular style of harsh vocals used in the genre.
  • Heavy Mithril: Blood on Ice.
  • Horny Vikings: Although common in later Viking metal, Bathory averted this trope with a heavy focus on historical accuracy with its lyrical portrayal of the Viking age.
  • Horrible History Metal:
    • "Woman of Dark Desires" tells of the infamous historical exploits of Elizabeth Bathory.
    • Overall, the band also has quite a few songs relating to various unpleasant events in Norse history, from the Viking raids to the forcible Christianization of Scandinavia.
  • I Am the Band: Pretty much every album after the first one. On Hammerheart, Twilight of the Gods, Destroyer of Worlds, and the Nordland albums, Quorthon is the sole performer; on others, he credits session musicians, although it's dubious if they actually preformed on them, given Quorthon's propensity to spread false information about the band to both play a joke on the press and cultivate a more mysterious image. Many issues of Bathory albums between 1988 and 1996 credit bass and drums to "Kothaar" and "Vvornth" respectively, but these have since been revealed to be pseudonyms for either the aforementioned session musicians, or Quorthon himself.note 
  • Large Ham: Whenever Quorthon does clean vocals, he comes across this way. Not that anyone's complaining.
  • Miniscule Rocking: Shows up on a lot of Quorthon's earlier work, due to its quite notable punk rock influence.
  • Mood Whiplash: "A Fine Day to Die" starts with about a minute and a half of haunting, ethereal folk music before suddenly transitioning with a Metal Scream into the band's signature ravaging black metal.
  • New Sound Album/Genre Shift: Several of them. Examples:
    • Blood Fire Death began establishing the viking metal sound that his later works would pioneer.
    • Blood on Ice (written next, but not finished until 1996) featured a full-fledged Genre Shift to Folk Metal, with a lot of Manowar influence thrown in.
    • Hammerheart (the next album released after Blood Fire Death) demonstrated a more epic sound than shown on any of Bathory's previous releases, and is generally seen as the Trope Codifier for viking metal.
    • Requiem featured a Genre Shift to Crust-tinged Thrash Metal.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Discussed quite frequently in all of the 'viking' albums.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "BLOOD! FIRE! DEATH!"
  • Purple Prose: Some of Quorthon's lyrics can be very bombastically descriptive and detailed, most famously "One Rode to Asa Bay".
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: "Hammerheart" (the song, not the album) is based on a melody from Gustav Holst's The Planets (specifically, "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity").
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Virtually all songs on the first three albums. Their usage of this trope dropped off with time.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: "Obeisance", used in "Nocturnal Obeisance", is a fairly obscure word referring to demonstrations of an obedient attitude, particularly by bowing deeply, or to a bow that demonstrates such an attitude.
  • Shout-Out: "Home of Once Brave" uses the ending riff of Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" as its coda.
  • Spell My Name with an S: The reason "Necromancy" is spelt as "Necromansy" is that Quorthon had bought a set of rub-on letters in an Old English font for the back cover of the first album and was short a "c".
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Song to Hall Up High", "Man Of Iron", "Ring of Gold", "The Ravens", "Hammerheart", among others.
  • Trope Codifier: Venom may have named the genre of Black Metal but it was Bathory that gave it its distinct sound and influenced all the Norwegian Bands to play Black Metal. Quorthon also pretty much invented the vocal style used on virtually every black metal recording made after that point.
  • Uncommon Time: Employed often in the more epic songs; the main riff of "A Fine Day to Die" is in alternating 9/16 and 6/8, "Foreverdark Woods" is in 3/4 that gradually progresses to 12/8, and the coda of "Home of Once Brave", like that of "For Whom the Bell Tolls", is in 10/4.
  • Ur-Example/Trope Maker: Of Viking Metal.
  • Viking Funeral: The subject of the final verse in "Shores in Flames".
  • War God: Odin and Thor are naturally portrayed this way in many of the songs that deal with the Vikings' conquests.
  • The Wild Hunt: Depicted in the Peter Nicolai Arbo painting The Wild Hunt of Odin, which is the album cover of Blood Fire Death.