Bathory - Coming in from the cold

Never let it be said that Bathory have not paid the price for being among the most influential Metal bands ever. Anything Quorthon does is guaranteed to disappoint somebody, or so Gregory Whalen reckons. Can the release of the long lost epic "Blood on Ice", taken out of the freezer after 8 years, change all that? Learned and profeshnul hack wot I am, I assumed that interviewing someone like Quorthon would be "nar brother", as we like to say here north of the border. Ha bloody ha! In actual fact, when the man called me up from Stockholm one bright Saturday afternoon to talk about his latest release, "Blood on Ice", it was all I could do to stop myself from dropping the receiver, jumping up an down and shouting "I'm talking to Quorthon! I'm talking to Quorthon! I'm talking to Quorthon! I'm talking to Quorthon!" repeatedly in a rather excited manner. Because, and I am not alone, Bathory means one helluva lot to me. They were the first - and so far only - band that has ever scared me, and I am not afraid to admit it. Having someone tell you that it is actually life-threatening to listen to "The Return" more than once a day tends to have a strange effect on you at the tender age of ten, or whenever it was that I first encountered that fateful disc, and I've been an avid fan ever since. "So what?", I hear the more furrow-browed and evil among you cry, "I was listening to Bathory before they even existed!" or something along those lines. Frankly, I don't give a damn. You don't have to have been there to enjoy those old records today, and their influence on the modern Black Metal scene is undeniable, but how does Quorthon himself think his music is perceived by the average Nineties Metal kid?

"I don't know. Sometimes when you get in touch with all these Death and Black Metal bands, you realise that the average age of these guys is somewhere between 18 and 20. And I formed the band 14 years ago, so they must have been around five or six. That's a big generation gap. You don't want to piss them off saying "Okay, start practising your guitar and take that fucking grease paint off your face!". There's a stage for every one of us where we wise up. I mean, I was wearing ridiculous stuff in pictures ten years ago too! As far as Bathory and the Nineties kids are concerned, we have a legendary status, and that's what we live from, basically. But when someone talks about Bathory as the originals, the godfathers, the forefathers, blahblahblah, it can have a negative effect. Because whenever I release an album today people write me letters and say "Hey, why do you release these albums? Why do you use the name Bathory ? Bathory are gods!". And it's like "Hey c'mon, fucking asshole, I AM BATHORY!". They make out Bathory to be some kind of legend and that I'm someone unworthy of dealing with Bathory. It's so stupid!".

Stupid but not unfounded. After all, it was quite a blow to be bombarded by two back-to-the-roots Speed Metal albums after four years of silence on the recording front, especially since the last real Bathory record, "Twilight of the Gods", was such an epic. However, now that "Blood on Ice" is finally with us, there can be no complaints. It's like "Requiem" and "Octagon" never happened...

"Well, 50% of all the records-buyers, or potential Bathory album-buyers, are into the epic type of shit, and 50% are into - I don't want to call it Satanic - but at least the death/hellbent type of shit. So regardless of whatever type of shit you release, you will have 50% of your fans disapointed. After "Requiem" and "Octagon", which was if not Death so at least thrashy, aggressive, older type of shit, I figured those of our fans into the epic stuff deserved "Blood on Ice" because they knew about the album".

They certainly did. In fact, the thing has been the basis for years of rumour and speculations among Bathory fans. How come it took so long to be released?

"Although it was something ready for release, I was holding it back because I knew how much work we had to do in order to release it. I had to put down at least half of the lead vocals, add an extra guitar and a bass to the old ones, change the sound of the drums and remix everything, spending five weeks last summer. So although it's not a new album, it's a new release. It's great because it was a technical challenge, not a musical challenge. I could never write that kind of stuff today and it would be shallow if I tried".

Apparently, Quorthon also felt that Bathory fans would have been confused if he had gone for an all-out epic soon after "Blood Fire Death", which in itself took some getting used to for a lot of people. However, when I put it to him that people will probably be even more confused by the fact that he has come out with two best-of compilations, a solo album, two simple Speed Metal workouts and now a fifty Norse Rock Opera, all within the space of four years, his blunt reply is "You need to shock people every once in a while". That's all fine and well, but isn't it worrying, given the current musical climate, that most of the press will probably hate "Blood on Ice" for being the wonder ful Spinal Tap-meets-Tolkien record that it is?

"Well, who the hell cares about journalists and their reviews (and he's having a point here-EM)? The guy sitting down making a review of an album it is, he is living with his girlfriend or his mom and he's 28. He hasn't fucked his girlfriend for a week and a half, his dog ran away, his mom burnt his toast this morning... his day is ruined! And even if he was going to review the "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album it would be an appealing review because his day is ruined. If you have 200 readers believing in and following one man's mind about something then we have the Führer principle all over again (magazine editor comments removed for lack of interest value-EM). And we all know what that leads to, when people start to concentrate on someone who can actually play an instrument and record music... And let's face it - journalists are just failed musicians themselves... Ahem. But enough of that."

Could it be that "Blood on Ice" is perhaps the missing link from "Blood Fire Death" to "Hammerheart" that everyone is looking for? Because a lot of people felt there was a drastic change between those two, especially vocally and lyrically.

"There was a drastic change between "The Return" and "Under the Sign of the Black Mark" as well, and "Hammerheart" and "Twilight of the Gods", and "Twilight of the Gods" and the solo album, and the solo album and the "Requiem" stuff. We change from one album to another. Even though the album was recorded between "Blood Fire Death" and "Hammerheart" (and also partly during "Hammerheart"), it is of course very easy to slot the album in there and say that is where it belongs. But you have to remember that 50% of what you hear on "Blood on Ice" was actually done last summer, so musically, it represents an era, not a specific file in between two albums, or a space". After "Twilight of the Gods", a lot of people wanted a return to... well, to "The Return". So they got two basic and brutal Bathory albums, yet still they weren't happy. "That is because they have an idea of "The Return" in those days, and never, ever am I or anybody else going to be able to reproduce their sentimental memories of those days. The music is there, so they can just listen to "The Return" and the first album is that is what they want. They're both shit albums, if you compare them to the stuff that's released today by not just Bathory but any band, but the atmosphere was very original for the time. Even though I don't like any of the albums - it's just work for me, I'm never allowed to to sit down and enjoy them as a fan - I must accept the fact that they have meant something to people back then in those days. Venom, Slayer, Metallica, Bathory, Celtic Frost... everything today came from those five great bands, pretty much. But if the first albums of those bands would have been released today, nobody would have cared". Ironically enough, though, there are plenty of albums being released today that sound exactly like them... Finally is there any particuliar reason for the enigma that has kept the fans interest all this time? Surely it must be doing the band more harm than good. "For eight years now, I have been telling the truth - it's me and a friend of mine doing the drums - yet still people come up and say "So how are you and your drum-machine doing?". It's like it doesn't matter what you say in interviews or when you meet people, as long as you say something that will ruin their image of what Bathory is all about for them, they will say "Uh uh, I don't wanna hear this! Don't ruin my image of what you guys are, you're part of my childhood, blahblahblah, I wanked off the first couple of times to your second album..." Whenever we release an album nowadays, people go "Don't you do this with Bathory!", and I say "Fuck you. I am Bathory!". Bathory to them is part of their childhood. I remember vividly once when I was asked what sort of stuff I listened to in my spare time and I said, "Okay, I enjoy Kate Bush and The Beatles", sure enough I received two hundred thousand million letters two weeks latter from people telling me "Why did you say this about Kate Bush and how the fuck can you listen to The Beatles?!". I just said, "Wise up and broaden your horizons!". I mean, who the hell do you think I am? Do you think I sit in my basement wanking off to Venom all day long? Fuck Off!".

Interview conducted by Gregory Whalen - Terrorizer Magazine, July 1996 - issue 32
Transcripted by Eric Massicotte for RADICART entertainment - March 1998 (just check out how many times the name Bathory is mentioned here...- EM)
Taken from Twilight web-site.
Little corrections by Blacky.

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