Quorthon, the leader of Bathory
, originators of Scandinavian Black Metal
and Viking Metal
passed away on June 7th 2004, of aparent heart failure. His death at the age of 39 is a tragic one for Metal fans, for not only were his past recordings masterpieces, his current direction had moved him to a new threshold of greatness. I think I speak for many Metal fans in saying his death was unexpected and shocking.
Quorthon started out playing Oi Punk, as he termed it. But he had a penchant for putting on Motorhead and Black Sabbath as well, and so was born a marriage of styles ending up with what has been termed as Black Metal. Bathory's first record (simply titled Bathory) was recorded with Quorthon's old punk band, who managed to figure out how to play his new songs. The songs were based on the Horror comics, movies and novels Quorthon enjoyed, and were meant to create mental "paintings" in listeners heads.
Qurthon found this record embraced by the metal community, and they ended up recording their second disc in a real studio. The Return Of.. was a doomier record, with slower songs and a creepier sound. The Sign of the Black Mark, their third disc, was a reaction to the opposate direction, in which Bathory speeded up the tempo and made a near thrash record. This would be Quorthon's main dislike of this record later on, and it's ended up being his least favorite, as he's said it had a bad guitar soung (for they had to use a junky pedal to not make much noise in studio, for the studio was a garage of a occupied house) and they had made songs fast just to be fast. Despite his own disliking for the album it is very often many fans favorite Bathory record.
Quorthon then went through a stage of appraisal, and found that allthough he still hated the Church, useing the Satan card was becoming tireing. He also felt that it wasn't the best way to go to criticise the Church. Satanism is the Churchs own game, their own creation, instead he went into his own background. He had been reading things about the Vikings and the violent "crusades" to destroy their Pagan Gods and bring them into Christianity. Somehow, the concept of writing about the Vikings, their culture and their religion, and the violence brought against them in the name of Christ, came to Quorthon. Out of this came Blood Fire Death, Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods, three of his greatest records.
When Bathory finished Twilight of the Gods he felt he had moved too far from his roots. So at a time when the music he had helped to create was burning churches and making news, Quorthon moved away from vikings and satan and into the real world. He started writing songs about current happenings. As he said every morning he would sit down drink coffee and read the newspaper, and write songs about whatever was happening at the time. Out of this came Requiem, Octagon and Destroyer of Worlds, and a handfull of solo records. All of these were luke-warmly recieved, a few even being reviled (read the Metal Observer reveiw of Octagon). They are unsteady works, with good songs and bad songs, but they aren't as bad as many hold. Quorthon also spent this time reveiwing his past with
the three Jubilem records, on which songs were picked by the fans. Tellingly they were heavy with the first 4 or 5 records. Oh yes, at this time a re-found record was found, recorded at the time of Hammerheart, Blood on Ice. It was so well recieved that I think Quorthon started to realise what people wanted from him. Destroyer of Worlds featured several viking metal type songs, and then in 2003 Nordland 1 and 2 came out. They were full fleged viking metal records, and the first was the best recieved new Bathory cd in 12 years. Obviously Quorthon felt a new spirit rising in him. And then he died.
Such is the way of things, but still, it's a sad thing to happen. His legacy will be here for all to see however, everyone can try to find his records and listen to the greatness that was Bathory. So in his way I think Quorthon will live forever in the hearts and minds of everyone. Let him never be forgotten. Hail to the master of Black Viking Metal!
(Originally written by me for www.tmetal.com)