Monday, December 20, 2010

My Bathory Story

Something I wrote up to a friend a while ago when I found about about Quorthon's (supposed) death back in June of '04.

My first experience with Bathory didn’t come till “Under the Sign of the Black Mark.” I was in 7th grade at the time towards the end of 1987. I’ll give you my little Bathory story. Might be a bit long…so bare with me. Back in the mid 80s, when I started tapping into the extreme metal scene, I heard the band name Bathory in passing. Their early albums weren’t in regular record outlets, therefor I wasn't able to get into them at the time. I obviously wasn’t big into collecting music at that time as I am now. I was actually still more interested in GI Joe’s and Trasformers than music during the years of 84/85...but my soul had been seared by the likes of Venom and Slayer, and there was no turning back. Around the time of 1986, is when I started mid-school. As a young adolescent entering a new phase in my life, I sort of lost interest in “playing” with toys and start noticing and feeling awkward around the older kids, but especially around the girls. I was very into this “crazy music” of Venom and Slayer, who I had owned a few tapes of by now and had picked up a couple of other bands along the way, Metallica, Anthrax, Hallow's Eve, Destruction, and Sodom. The Destruction and Sodom I got into by seeing reviews in a magazine, ...I shortly found their tapes afterward at the record store. So during my days of the 6th grade nothing, in my attempts to “find my place” amongst my peers...I came to the conclusion that I “had no place.” I did however find comfort in this “outsider” brand of Metal music that I was getting into. Throughout my entire days of school, I never once had a peer group that shared the same taste in music as I. And thus I remained completely alone when it came to my explorations of music. Sure there were the typical Iron Maiden and Dio long-hairs around school, but I never was able to identify with the typical rocker/metalhead I pretty much stayed away. Anyhow, as stated before, during those days of 6th grade awkardness, I decided to indulge myself more in the music I was falling madly in love with. I really liked this Sodom band, and I thought they must have been the heaviest most Satanic band in the world!...and wanted to find more like this. So I went my usual route of finding out about bands at the time. Going up and down the isles at music stores, looking for album covers of bands that “might” be the kind of Metal I was looking for. Plus seeing obscure band names in “thanks lists” printed on the inserts of other albums was another way of finding out about bands back then. There was also an abundance of Metal/Hardrock magazines back then that were to be found on newsstands everywhere. Sometimes I would buy them, but mostly I would skim though and absorb as much as I could, before loitering too long at the local Circle-K. Anything that fit the name of black/death/thrash/speed/power/Metal struck my interest at the time. Some of the names that stuck with me had a certain ring of “evil” that I liked and kept in mind, Exodus, Possessed, Hellhammer, Overkill, SOD, Megadeth, Grave Digger, Armoured Saint, etc, etc and of course the unique and mysterious name of Bathory. So I would take a risk on buying a tape (or record) of a band purely on what I read in a magazine, and also how the gruesome and evil the album cover looked. Or even if the bands name/song-titles/album-title, and over all image seemed “evil enough,” I would buy it. Remember…I wasn’t buying albums by the bulk like I do today. I was only able to afford an album a month or even longer, if I managed to scrape together some change. And sometimes wouldn’t even buy albums but spend the money I did have on video arcades and Slurpies while hanging out with friends. So during that time of over a year or two buying music, I managed to gather together a decent stack of tapes and records. Maybe about 5 LPs and 25 or so, tapes. Some were great at the time and remain classics to this day, Exodus - “bonded by blood” Kreator - “flag of hate”. And some were great at the time, and maybe even good for a listen now, but didn’t really last the test of time for me, Hallows Eve - “tales of terror.” Iron Angel - “hellish crossfire.” And some were all together a big disappointment, Metal Church - “metal church”, Savatage - “dungeons are calling”, Megadeth “killing is my business.” Sorry I always hated this band, Dave Mustaine, talented as he is rubbed me the wrong way and I could just never get into Megadeth.

So throughout the next year or so, the name ‘Bathory’ stuck in the back of my mind and I would always look to see if the record stores had any of their albums or tapes. But unfortunately I was always met with no luck.

I used to walk home from school now and then back when I was in Middle-School. It was about a 2 mile walk, but I had many-O-adventures during that time of trekking through the streets, and neighborhoods and back alleys of the NE heights of Albuquerque. It was also a very serene experience to listen to my walkman on the long hike home. Plus, this was the time I used to stop in the local Circle-K along the way home, to look through the Metal magazines. Anyhow, one day when I was taking one of my many shortcuts through the back of an apartment complex that resides off of Osuna Blvd - there was this (at the time) big open dirt field adjacent to the apartment complex I would go through - so on that day I unexpectedly happened upon some fresh red&black graffiti spray-painted on a long gray brick wall that wasn’t there the day before. Someone must have came the previous night and did this. So what was spray-paint on the wall you might ask? It was all kinds of Satanic phrases and symbols, as well as a few band names: Sodom, Destruction, Possessed and of course Bathory. It was all probably done by some older delinquent kids, but the whole thing freaked me out at the time. My young impressionable mind, thought that this MUST have all been done by some “Satanic Cult.” And even though I was a bit intimidated by the writings, I felt somewhat of a kinship with this mysterious group of people that would come out here and do such a thing. As far as the band names go, I was already familiar with Destruction and Sodom, but had yet to hear the other 2 bands on the wall, Possessed and Bathory. After this encounter with the Satanic spray-painted wall, it coerced me to become all the more determined to buy albums from these other 2 bands. Bathory and Possessed became all the more mystical and evil to my imagination. I figured if this “Satanic Cult” liked these bands, then they must be just “super evil!” I just had to add them to my collection!

Well, after all that, Bathory was still about a year away from me finally getting to hear them for the first time But I will go into how I got into Possessed a bit here...which happened about 4 months after the Satanic graffiti findings. I did happen to find Possessed - “7 churches” at couple of locations. But, remember that ol’ “18 to purchase” sticker? Yep, I was unable to buy this due to my age. And believe me, I tried to buy it once at Hastings and once at Musicland, but no luck on either...I was turned away at the register. And I wasn’t about to ask my parents to buy it for me either. Just one look at that “7 Churches” album cover would freak them out. So I had an older cousin, who was in town visiting from Wisconsin, buy it for me after I gave him the money. I remember buying it from the old Musicland in Coronado mall. I had him pick up not only Possessed - “7 Churches” but also Dark Angel - “Darkness Descends" that same day.
The Dark Angel was great, but it was the Possessed that had my jaw completely on the floor! Now, THIS had to be the most EVIL band on the planet! And at that time in my own little world, they were!! Upon hearing Possessed, I figured Bathory had to have been just as good. Though I couldn’t imagine how Possessed could have been topped at that time. So once again my throbbing desire to finally hear the elusive and ever so mysterious Bathory, continued to elevate even further.

Time still passed and months went by, but still no Bathory. Upon entering 7th grade, 1987, I feel even deeper and became all that much more enthralled with the music I loved. I went beyond just "the music I like" became my obsession, my life and my lover..and remained such throughout my school years and beyond! I continued to discover even more great bands and opened myself up to the ever rewarding genre of Hardcore Punk around this time too…but that’s a story for another day. I never actually “ordered” anything by mail before, and it really didn’t cross my mind at the time. But I remember seeing small ads, in some of the magazines that would have albums that you couldn’t find in stores, but you could order by mail. I came across one of those ads, for a place called “Metal Disc” out in California. The Metal Disc ad had a "new releases" promo with about 30 titles: Bathory - “Under the Sign of the Black Mark” was on that list. Just by reading that album title alone, "Under the Sign..." I knew that had to be some serious shit. I could not longer delay my destiny with Bathory any longer; now was the time! I did make an order, but not for that album, just yet. I figured I’d give it a test run, something cheap, since I was wary about sending my hard earned allowance cash through the mail. So I bought Nuclear Assault’s - “the plague” cassette, which was only $5.99 + $2.50 s+h at the time. Needless to say, about 3 or 4 weeks later, I finally got my tape that I ordered in the mail. After that I thought that this “mail order stuff” was the neatest thing in the world!....and of course, I’ve never been the same and have been an order junkie ever since! They also sent a catalog with my order and I found plenty of other albums that I also wanted to buy from them in the near future. I scrapped together some cash for my next order, and wrote up the order form (as crystal clear as I could write, cause I wanted to make sure they got the order correct! sealed it up and sent out the envelope with my order. I put in an order for 2 cassettes. This time, Necrophagia - “Season of the Dead,” and of course Bathory - “Under the Sign of the Black Mark." This one actually took a bit longer then the last. About 8 fricken weeks! I almost thought I’d lost my money and was preparing to write them another letter, asking them what the fuck was going on?! (memories like this of the old snail-mail days makes me all that much more appreciative for technological progress, don't get me wrong I love the olden days of the Metal Underground, and romanticize about it constantly, but after being blessed (or spoiled) by the internet I would never want to go back to how it was - SATAN BLESS THE INTERNET!!!!)

One wintery evening, I was taking a nap in my room when my Dad opened the door and placed a small package in my arms while I was still half-asleep. I remember almost falling back asleep, until I shook off my grogginess and realized that my tapes had finally arrived! It was almost surreal, opening that brown package and finally seeing a Bathory tape in my hand! That obscure grainy cover with that masked guy standing at the edge of a cliff coupled with the blood red Bathory logo emblazoned across the top half of the tape cover all fit together perfectly! The titles of the songs were listed at the bottom of the tape in white lettering-on-black-print in old-English font. It almost seemed like the album was inviting me in on some dark cinematic adventure. And the song titles were the chapters to the story that will unfold when I enter this album. This cinematic/epic vibe I was getting from tape cover, became all the more real as I opened the tape and I read the words printed on the inlay card. The Weapons, The Medicine, The Vangaurds, The Hordes!!!….were the words that jumped out at me upon first glance...argh!! was so fucking awesome!. It gave me the impression that I was being equipped, for a large battle that was about to begin! As if I was being prepared to become an infantry soldier in the vast Bathory horde! I’d never seen an album before that had such a visual epic presentation to it. Yet it all made sense to ME; an evil, angsty, prepubescent 13 year old virgin reject who loved movies like The Hobbit and Conan the Barbarian. The funny thing is, I didn’t throw the tape on right away. Waiting to hear Bathory all these years, I was hoping that they wouldn’t disappoint. So I was hesitant. I threw on the Necrophagia, to sort of prepare myself for what may or may not be, the greatest album I’ll ever hear. I waited for years to finally have one of Bathory's albums in my possession, but now that I finally had one, I could wait in wonder just a little longer. Let the thrill of anticipation draw out a bit more while I ponder what might be in store for me when I finally throw on the tape. Yeah sure, the Necrophagia was good, but I only got past the first 2 songs of that album, cause I couldn’t pay any attention to it, while I had another sitting beside me that I waited oh so many years to finally hear. Finally, I threw on “Under the Sign”......“Nocturnal Obeisance” sucked me into an ancient realm that I had never been to before. This small intro created an atmosphere of a world where only war, evil and death exists. Then, within a flash, I was dropped into the battlefield with “Massacre” and my sword was immediately drawn! My mouth was slightly agape as I hungrily absorbed the first few seconds of the song. The ripping vocals, the pounding speed, the blistering echo and the overall ominous sound had me grinning ear to ear. Though I’d only been about 30 seconds into this album so far... not only had it already met my expectations but far surpassed them! I knew I had found one of my new favorite bands. “Woman of Dark Desires” was a touch slower, but the thunderous nature of this track, had me jumping up and down kicking holes in my wall. “Equimanthorn” is the definite ‘hit’ off of the album and stands as possibly one of the greatest songs ever written, in any genre of music! “Equimanthorn” is the first song off the album that I made and effort to learn all the lyrics to, so I could scream along with Quorthon in the grim hails of “Equimanthron!!!! Equimanthron!!!! Equimanthron!!!!” Enter “Chariots of Fire” the journey through this epic saga, the song “Massacre” was the first battle we immediately enter…and this battle takes place across a bloodstained valley. While in “Chariots of Fire” this time we take to the air and have battle across the fiery sky! “Of Doom” is the most appropriate song to finish the album off with. It is a song of Satanic victory and the triumph of the Bathory Hordes who hath accomplished their goal in the defeat of the light. And, yet As I continued to listen to the rest of the album, over and over again. It was the other 3 songs that I have yet to mention that really added depth, personality, originality, a true sense of mood, and a far reaching creativity that would find it's lasting influence in atmospheric Black Metal ever afterwords. Before, I was mainly into, “the faster--the heavier--the more harsh vocals--the better,” type of Metal. I had a very narrow sense music at 13, but I knew what I liked and didn’t. It was either fast-thrash or I didn’t like it at all. So I give Bathory the credit for being THEE first band in my earliest days of music appreciation, to broaden my thick head to different ways of creating songs beyond “speedy, metal and punk attacks.” I wouldn’t say it was necessarily an epiphany, but it is however the moment in time that I can finger as the beginning of a music journey I’m still following to this day. Songs like “Enter the Eternal Fire” “Call from the Grave” and “13 Candles” showed me the way towards, true atmosphere and vibes beyond shear aggression. “Call from the Grave” is a song of true desolation and fear, and a descent into the depths of Hell; screaming for your god for salvation, a god that will never save you! “Enter the Eternal Fire” easily paints an audiovisual backdrop of an ancient realm at the edge of the TSR universe. Burzum and all other hypnotic Black Metal bands owes their entire existence to this one song. And “13 Candles”, the genius of this song is infinite. I’m always able to pick out something new and rewarding every time I listen to this song. The haunting chant of “born child of the underworld...!!!” sends a sardonic vibe straight up my spin. I feel like rolling my eyes into the back of my head, and screaming blasphemies at the sky in predictions of heavens doom, as the child of Satan is born!!! And of course, who can forget the trademarked Bathory Outro? The synonymous vocal drone layered over a repetitious and timely primitive thud, that finishes and fades out the album after the final song “Of Doom.” A perfect ending for a beyond perfect album.

Throughout the rest of the year, that tape was in my walkman or stereo at least once a day. All other albums that followed would be held to the standard of this one album. The couple years that followed, during my 8th grade year and entering 9th grade, many other bands would come into my life that also became hugely influential. Napalm Death, Carcass, Death, Cryptic Slaughter, Extreme Noise Terror, etc. Bands were indeed getting faster and heavier, yes, but “Under the Sign” still remained my all time favorite.
About a year or so later, I managed to pick up “Blood, Fire, Death.” While it is a great album, I wasn’t feeling it the same way as “Under the Sign.” Or at least it didn’t have the same impact that “Under the Sign” had on me. While I’d grown to like “Blood, Fire, Death” quite a bit, and its still 10 times better then most Metal that comes out nowadays, its still not on the same level of greatness as the album I just wrote about. The songs on BFD, are still pretty damned strong, but the production always threw me off. The production is a bit too slick and standard Thrash Metal sounding for my tastes. I think Quorthon wanted get in on the same respectable level as his Metal peers at the time, Testament, Metallica, Slayer, etc. Thus, the production on BFD has less slop, fuzz, buzz, reverb, echo, hiss, murkiness and all the other great production "flaws" that made "Under the Sign" so effectively Evil sounding. BFD has more of a razor sharp, riff-friendly sound which was dominant in most of the other popular Thrash/Speed Metal acts at that time. Even though BFD has some finely written songs, I would rather have heard them recorded with more of an "Under the Sign" (or even "The Return-esque") style of production.
It wasn’t around till 1990/91-ish that I finally heard Bathory’s “S/T” and “The Return” albums. A matter of fact I picked them up at Merlin’s Record store, both at the same time. Both, very dark and evil albums that I continue to hold in the highest regards.
And of course there is “Hammerheart.” Which I completely hated when I first bought on tape back in 91. I even took it back to the store a few days later cause it was such a disappointment at the time. I obviously didn't "get" what was going on with that album at the time and I was still a pretty young and naive kid, but I did eventually give it another shot and bought the album again a couple of years later about 1993, this time on LP (purchased along with the Twilight of the Gods LP as well.) My musical tastes were a bit more broad by then and I was finally ready for the pure majesty of that album . And the interesting thing is, “Hammerheart” not only grew on me immensely but I've grown so partial to this album that I’d even go as far to say that its become my Second favorite Bathory album, only behind the mighty “Under the Sign of the Black Mark.”

Unreleased Bathory material I can only hope will see the light of day sometime before I die:

OCCULTA/OKKULTA session were "Black Leather Wings", "Hellfire", "Majestica Satanica", "Circle of Blood", "Wicca", "The Call from the Grave" (an early version of "Call from the Grave") and "Undead". Sadly, only the reel containing the tracks "Black Leather Wings", "Circle of Blood", "Majestica Satanica" and "Undead" has survived to this day.

NECRONOMCON / MALEFICARUM EP = 1984, was supposed to be released as a "christmas" EP Dec 25th of 1984, also to serve as a inbetween release before "The Return of Darkness and Evil"(original title)

OCCULTA/OKKULTA session = 1985/86, this was supposed to the 3rd Bathory album, the entire thing was shelved cause he wasn't sure he wanted to do another album in the same Satanic vein as the previous,


"The material recorded during this NECRONOMICON / MALEFICARUM-session was "Children of the Beast", "Crown of Thorns one the Golden Throne", "Crucifix" and "Necronomicon". It was decided however, that the four tracks showed not enough progress from the material featured on the first album released less than a month before, and subsequently the EP was cancelled."

OCCULTA/OKKULTA (aborted recording session 1985...)
"During this - and a second weekend - six tracks were recorded directly onto one 2-inch tape. And immediately after the completion of the session transferred onto two 15 minutes quarter-inch tapes. The titles recorded during the OCCULTA/OKKULTA session were "Black Leather Wings", "Hellfire", "Majestica Satanica", "Circle of Blood", "Wicca", "The Call from the Grave" (an early version of "Call from the Grave") and "Undead". Sadly, only the reel containing the tracks "Black Leather Wings", "Circle of Blood", "Majestica Satanica" and "Undead" has survived to this day."


Coming to BATHORY unreleased material , here is an article ( Dont remember who translated it) I took from this forum sometime ago:

Sweden rock magazine had this big 8 page memorial article about Quorthon a couple of years ago. This is about the unreleased stuff.
It's in swedish, but here's a rough translation:


Bathory have, with differnt line ups, written and recorded several more records and songs, then what is shown in theyr discography. Recordings that never saw the day of light in any form, and for a long time have been legendary among the fans, since Quorthon sometimes have mentioned them in interviews since the late 80's.
Here's some of the unheard treasures who might be lying about of each their tape, collecting dust somewhere.

Necronomicon / Malificarum ep (1984)

In november 1984, just a few months after Bathorys first album became a reality, the band was supposed to have gone back to Heavenshore studio to record 4 new songs: children of the beast, Crown of thorns on the golden throne, Crucifix and Necronomicon. The plan was to release these as an EP around x - mas, but then they cancelled the project because they didn't think the material showed enough progress since the debut. Musically this ep, who was to be named Necronomicon or Malificarum, is something between the debut and the follow up "The return", whos recording started allready 3 months later.

OCCULTA (1985)

In June 1985 did Bathory, who's line up now were Quorthon and the drummer Stefan Larsson, put the songs: Black leather wings, Hellfire, Majestica Satanica, Circle of blood, Wicca, Undead and an early version of Call from the grave on tape. The record who had the working title "Occulta" or "Okkulta" were later, for some reason, put away.

VALHALLA ( ca. 1987 - 88 )

Between 20 and 30 songs are supposed to have been recorded while they were working on a double LP with the name "Valhalla". A couple of them would later been used elsewere. The titletrack ended up on Hammerheart.

REQUIEM (1989)

After Hammerheart, Quorthon wanted to do some brutal music again, wich resulted in six - seven raw death / thrash pieces, made for an album with the working title REQUIEM. One of the was Crawl to you cross, who were put on the 1st Jubileum comp. This lp has nothing to do with the record who were recorded and released in 1994 under the name REQUIEM.


From the summer 1999 till the summer of 2000 about 22 songs were supposed to have been recorded. According to Quorthon, they had some strong influences from classical music, and they were arranged that way instead of the typical verse / refrain structures. Big timpani drums and many medieval and classical instruments were suposedly used frequently.
But Quorthon felt that this material were a step in the wrong direction, so instead he started to work on what was to become "Destroyer of worlds".

" Two of the first Bathory songs ever recorded were "Live and die in sin" and "Dirty woman". These were recorded in the same sessions as those, on the Jubileum, released "Die in fire", Witchcraft", "Satan my master" and " You don't move me and I don't give a fuck".

This is what Boss says about releasing the unreleased stuff in the interview.

"He didn't want to release it. And it feels wrong if I were to release those records and songs just commercially just to make money. It wasn't so that he wasn't pleased with the material, they just didn't fit in , or were discarded from the albums they were made for. Left overs. It was made a lot of things during what was to become "Blood fire death" i.e, some songs were recorded earlier and released later etc... There's even some songs from the Nordland session that we didn't use. Of course the fans would think it was great, but for me it would feel like I were " stepping over him". No, in any case somebody must do this after me. Then I will leave everything behind. I have said that "Now Quorthon is gone, when I'm gone they can do what the hell they want with it".

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