Quorthon, the Grandfather of Epic. That enigmatic and seclusive
genius who created some of the first (and best) black metal in history
and later went on to pursue heroic viking themes, thus being an ancestor
for two metal subgenres: black metal and viking metal (though I hate
the term). All this was done through his first-born, baptized in fire
and ice with a name that strikes fear in the feeble and is honored by
metalheads across the world: the mighty Bathory. If you don’t know
Bathory or haven’t listened to them extensively, making them one of your
life’s musical priorities – do it. Now.
“Blood on Ice”, or parts of it, was originally recorded in 1989,
when Quorthon’s viking longship was just making its first raids to the
shores of the metal scene. The songs being in Q’s mind all too different
from Bathory’s previous material, they were set aside for the moment.
Instead he recorded and released the immortal classics “Hammerheart” and
“Twilight of the Gods”, which had a somewhat rawer vibe to them and
made the transition from the band’s BM roots smoother. And finally, in
1995, “Blood on Ice” was finalized…
9. This album is one of the most Epic metal albums ever recorded.
Yes, it deserves the capital E. I’ll explain the style of music found
now. Bear with me – blackened viking heavy metal with a grandiose aura
of Wagnerian proportions manifesting a saga of fire and steel. Yeah. I
know, categorizing sucks but now you probably understand what it sounds
like. Sort of. All songs are great, and some hold purely amazing
qualities of composition and arranging, such as “The Lake”. Catchy as
hell, with a dark atmosphere perfectly reflecting the lyrics, heightened
by background choirs and ambient guitar leads, and to cap it off – as
strong a chorus as there has ever been in the realm of metal. And what’s
most impressive about all of this is that Quorthon managed to fit all
the pieces together in the best way possible, so that transitions
between parts are not just smooth or natural, they just couldn’t be done
in any other way. It just has to be just like it is.
The sing-along factor of the tracks on “BoI” is so high that there
should be a fucken karaoke version of this motherfucker.
8. The production in itself has no value, it’s how well it works
with the song material that counts. So what do we get here? Well… The
drums sound like a drum machine, with lots of reverb. The choirs sound
far away, with lots of reverb. The guitars sound frizzy and fuzzy, with
lots of reverb. The acoustic guitars sound like acoustic guitars. With
lots of reverb. There’s a lot of stuff going on here, and there’s lots
of reverb all over the place. Sounds…chaotic? Yes, a bit. Indistinct?
Actually, not that much. All the hits by the drum machine are so clearly
punctuated that you never lose the beat or sense of rhythm. The sound
canvas is instead huge and epic, but the lo-fi recording makes
everything sound raw. Sounds like a pretty good production for this
record to me.
7. The guitars are not as dominant as on most metal albums, many
riffs are doubled by the choirs and the guitars often bring a supportive
chordal texture more than a leading role. Ambient guitar leads and
melodies are found aplenty, but they’re seldom in-your-face. Acoustic
guitars come to the fore-front much more when they kick in, and bring a
great heathen atmosphere. Whatever that is. Some not-so-well-played
solos play their part but nothing more. All in all, guitars are just
another piece in Quorthon’s puzzle, not bigger than the other
instruments. But the riffs, oh man – the riffs!!
8. If I’d score the passion, feeling and conviction in Q’s vocals,
I’d give him an 11. Unluckily, he’s so off-key at times (for example the
1st verse of “The Stallion”) that even Enrique Iglesias cringed when I
played a few songs to him. Yes I know Enrique. He’s my manwhore.
Meaning, I rent his ass to people and take the money. Too bad he starts
singing after a while, most clients can’t bear the noise. Ok, now back
to Quorthon’s vox – there’s no growling or shrieking on “BoI”, only mid-
to high-pitched melodic heavy metal vox which sound mighty fine for the
most part. Almost all of the time, or at least more than half, there
are “Aaaaaahh” or “Oooooohh” choirs in the background, enveloping the
songs in epicness, epicity and epichood. Sometimes Q gets a nice
rasp/distortion to his voice, and sometimes he gets something else,
which is not at all as pleasant. To say the least, he sounds raw – but
he fucken means every syllable.
7. Nothing mind-blowing, but very melodic playing and some cool solo interludes (5:51 on “The Revenge of the Blood on Ice”).
5. Well… sounds like a drum machine. I guess it is a drum machine,
although Quorthon mentions drum kit placements and whatnot here and
there when speaking about the recording sessions. Q liked to lie a lot,
though, we all know that. I’m going with my ears on this one, and
calling it a drum machine. It’s programmed OK, and there are many “I
feel the need to airdrum”-parts, but that’s mainly due to the
song-writing and not as much the drum arrangements. Still, nothing wrong
here. Except that it’s a fucken machine.
7. This is a concept album. You might have guessed that by now. It’s
a tale of a boy whose village is ravaged, his family killed, his life
destroyed – and his quest for revenge. He gathers heroic things like
strength, wisdom and a sword and sets upon a trip to hell to avenge the
fallen. Sounds familiar? Yeah… it’s Conan all over again. Also, Quorthon
borrowed a lot from both the Viking and German mythologies so most of
the stuff feels like you’ve heard it all before. Still, the epicness
wins you over with such tasteful lines such as:
”Creator of life. Guardian of the dead.
Goddess of battle and war.
All of yee watch me. My sword by my side.
Proudly I sit on my horse.”
I’m serious. The tale is so macho it makes your dick hard just by
reading it, and twice its normal size if you dare sing along. I do it
all the time while performing in the sack.
7. Kristian Wåhlin aka Necrolord knows how to paint. This one has a
draw-back though; it’s quite chaotic, as KW tried to get as many parts
of the saga as possible into one picture. It’s still quite nice, with a
flaming penis and all. Huh? Oh, right. A flaming sword. Bummer.
? Yo dawg, we put the cover on yo logo so you can watch it when you can’t watch it. Ya with me? (There’s no logo.)
9. A great booklet for sure. Quorthon writes at length (six pages)
about the record’s historical aspects, recording details and influences.
All you could possibly want to know about it. Plus all the lyrics, with
written introductions to every song that tie the saga together. A solid
10, if it wouldn’t be for the German translations of – everything.
Hopefully not all versions have those.
While “Blood on Ice” wasn’t released during the pinnacle of
Bathory’s viking era, I still rate it as high on the classic scale as
“Hammerheart”. In fact, “BoI” is my favorite Bathory album. Its
bombastic and epic arrangements coupled with the superb song-writing
make for a match in heaven/hell (your choice). If there ever was a
viking metal album that was worth purchasing, it’s this one. Served with
chilled mead and raw meat. Vegans fuck off.