BATHORY - Blood Fire Death (BLACK MARK - LP 1988)
I already stated in my other review that definitely “Under the Sign of Black Mark” is my favourite Bathory LP and also one of my fave metal albums of all times… but Quorthon, through the years of Bathory existence, managed to compose and record several amazing LPs and if one would ask me which another LP of his I like most then I guess it would be “Blood Fire Death”. Hmm, obviously the choice if pretty difficult, as there’s that amazing originator of what we know as nowadays black metal (at least in my opinion) called “The Return…” and there’s also the great epic “Twilight of the Gods”. But I think “Blood Fire Death” is slightly better than these two – and “Hammerheart” – mainly because this album has some of my favourite Bathory songs, so this is why I would choose this one. Anyway, “Blood Fire Death” should be mentioned as one of the most influential and significant metal albums of all times, not only due to the music it contains, but also because who knows, if this LP hasn’t started something what nowadays everybody knows as “Viking metal” – which is basically any sort of metal music, dealing with Viking myths and other Nordic stuff in the lyrics. Prior to that album Bathory was dealing with satanic and dark matters, with “Blood Fire Death” Quorthon changed some of his lyrics creating something totally new to the scene! At least I don’t know about any other band, which would explore the Vikings theme so much before… OK, maybe there isn’t as much of this stuff on this LP as on the future Bathory records, but surely it’s the first time they’ve appeared! I can only honour and admire Quorthon’s impact on the evolution of the metal scene – first his early works have been a great influence on Norwegian black metal and then he created and influenced another group of bands – mainly Scandinavian – for something different once more. What a creative person he was…
Anyway, “Blood Fire Death”, released back in 1988, is the fourth album of Quorthon and one, which – just as any other previous release of his – brings yet another change in the sound of Bathory. I mean, if you listen to all three previous records it will be certain that none of them sounds like its predecessors and each brings something different to the sound and style of the band. Starting with Venom-esque self titled debut, then going through more darker and utterly evil “The Return…” and finishing off with wonderfully catchy, but epic, dark and evil and way better composed “Under the Sign of Black Mark” – each LP is different. But “Blood Fire Death” is something way diverse and once more Quorthon just turned into completely different direction than anybody would expect. From one hand the album has a handful of savage and fast thrash metal songs and from the other there are some monumental, more melodic and almost beautiful songs, which take the epic side of the previous LP into another dimension.
I guess my - and everybody else’s – favourite songs from “Blood Fire Death” would definitely be the title track and “A Fine Day to Die”… The latter song – opened by a three minute long introduction called “Odens Ride Over Nordland” – is one of the finest nine minutes, which Quorthon has ever composed. This song is just perfect, the riffs are just amazing, so are the vocals and more so I just love the way the whole song has been built, how it develops and creates the tension, keeping the listener with the mouth open in amazement. Long part of this track can really be instrumental, but it still brings the attention and is catchy as hell. And would anyone in the times of “The Return…” expect Bathory to open the album with an acoustic guitar and clean vocals, creating rather peaceful aura, before the first truly heavy and epic riff begin? Combined with the lyrics dealing about the warriors going to the battle it surely feels almost like a fantastic movie soundtrack… just close your eyes and you can see the men, standing in the battlefield, roaring and holding swords, axes or spears, ready to fight or die: “…Along the black mountainside scattered, by the campfires awaiting the dawn two times a hundred men in battles, tried by the steel in the arrow axe and the sword…”. Another epic and impressive song is the title track… this one finishes the album in very similar vein to the opener “A Fine Way to Die” and trust me, it is equally thrilling and memorable as “A Fine Day to Die”!!!! The riffs in this song are just excellent; again this is very long song – 10 minutes, so it is the longest one – opened by a short acoustic theme, soon joined by thunderous drumming and heavy riff; basically whole song has one main riff (one of Quorthon’s best!!!!!!!!), accompanied by some keyboards, but with lots of variations during the song… The song structure is simple, but so damn effective and one of a kind, unique as hell and I always get shivers, when I listen to it! And the vocals of Quorthon in it are just excellent! They’re way cleaner and more melodic than his usual harsh, raw voice and also more understandable, something he’ll continue doing on the future albums. And again, you can just close your eyes to watch Ragnarok and all that Nordic stuff… so awesome! And finally I should mention "For All Those Who Died" – this song I think has pretty strong heavy metal influence, with that mid paced, catchy riff and simple drumming… It may not feel too complicated and also not as epic as the two tracks I mentioned above, but it is so damn catchy, so wonderfully memorable that it surely belongs to the finest moments of “Blood Fire Death”.
In between those monumental and epic tunes “Blood Fire Death” contains also a number of very aggressive and fast thrashing songs, which is a bit of a surprise, as I guess they literally can take you back to Bathory’s beginnings, only on “Blood Fire Death” the sound is way better – even if it feels a bit chaotic in those fast songs – and they’ve progressed a lot, they not as primitive anymore, if I can say so. Listen to “The Golden Walls of Heaven” – man, drums just doesn’t slow down there almost at all, except one fragment really, they’re just beating the skin mercilessly with the same, fast tempo all the time, accompanied by great fast riffing and cacophonic guitar leads. Personally though I prefer "Pace 'Till Death" and “Holocaust” – if we speak of the side A of the vinyl - which are just excellent songs. The first verse of the "Pace 'Till Death" lyrics says everything about these two songs’ attitude: “Oh I hit top speed, still it's much too slow…” hehe! Yeah, these are fast fuckers, relentless and maybe a bit messy here and there, but I like such stuff a lot. “Holocaust” is just insane, barbaric and it definitely is the fastest song, which Bathory have ever recorded, in my opinion. "…Mirror mirror on the wall I'm the fastest of them all!!!!!!” hehe!!!!!
But of course most of the fans would worship Bathory mainly for the epic music and “Blood Fire Death” delivers a couple of stunning songs from this style… In my opinion even if this LP is not quite as phenomenal as “Under the Sign of Black Mark” it still contains a couple of my favourite Bathory songs. And even if the likes of “The Golden Walls of Heaven” quality wise aren’t as good, it is good enough to just have this LP in the collection and build an altar for it – if you already haven’t got the whole Bathory chapel in your basement! Oh, and obviously as everybody knows the lyrics to "The Golden Walls of Heaven" and "Dies Irae" are acrostics: the first letters of each line spell out words, namely "SATAN" and "CHRIST THE BASTARD SON OF HEAVEN". Can it get any more classic and cult? I don’t think so!! Hail Bathory!
Standout tracks: “A Fine Day to Die”, “Blood Fire Death”, "For All Those Who Died", “Dies Irae”
Final rate: 90/100