The early history of this Swedish death metal band is like none seen before in any other band.
In 1983 a Swede known only to the outside world as 'Quorthon' decided to form a band with two friends. The name 'Bathory' came from the 16th Century vampire, Countess Elizabeth Bathory. They did not take playing seriously, as this was the intention, and just messed about doing covers.
Quorthon wanted a song on an album, and so got in touch with the frontman of Tyfon Grammofon, a man called simply, 'Boss'. Bathory got two songs on the Scandinavian Metal Attack album, and split up shortly afterwards, due to musical differences. Quorthon reformed the band shortly afterwards. A lack of fellow band members was not a problem...
Perhaps one of the strangest facts is that the first two Bathory albums, Bathory and The Return..., were played solely by Quorthon. Yes, that's right, Quorthon played all the instruments himself. He'd been playing drums since he was nine, and guitar from 15.
The third album featured an unknown drummer, and it wasn't until the fourth that there was a fixed line-up: 'Kothaar' on drums and 'Vvornth' on bass.
Bathory have kept going since 1983, but have been fraught with difficulties. Recording albums had been difficult, due to the fact the place where Bathory recorded wasn't big enough to fit all the instruments and amplifiers. Sometimes second-rate drum machines had to be brought in, and on the first album they didn't even have a complete drum kit.
The problem was that the recording of albums was done in Quorthon's house, so there was little or no space to do things. One time, when Quorthon was playing the acoustic intro on 'Valhalla' for the Hammerheart album, the sound of his neighbour's lawnmower was accidentally recorded as well. Quorthon himself said:
If this makes you drop your chin from pure amazement, wait until you hear about the lead vocals done in the bathroom.
Bathory play death metal and black metal, and have been labelled as perhaps the most evil band you could want to hear. Certainly, that would be true. Quorthon's deep, satanic voice and the use of distorted guitars have made Bathory the most influential band in death metal.
The songs, in good old black/death metal style, were first about Satan, Satanism, and death in general. They moved on to a more Viking-orientated theme.
Quorthon describes Satan as:
This thing created by the church (or Christianity, if you like) to herd the terrified world into its arms (and cathedrals).
He went on to say:
It's really amazing what we are prepared to accept and do when facing the sword held in one hand and the crucifix in the other.
From this, Quorthon went on to find a subject in history that matched this train of thought. Naturally, he went for the Vikings.
A band shrouded in secrecy like Bathory is going to pick up a lot of rumours about itself, and Bathory certainly did. Rumours included:
- Quorthon ate babies.
- Quorthon drank the blood of angels.
- Quorthon lived in a satanic bat's cave in the north of Sweden.
- Quorthon's style of singing came when, while rehearsing, his mike broke, so instead he used a guitar mike connected to a distort box.
- The 'unknown drummer' on the third album was famed video producer Jonas Åkerlund.
- Bathory had made a vow never to perform live.
The last rumour has an element of truth on it. Quorthon's onstage antics included fire breathing, torture, smashing guitars, vomiting up blood, bombs and five-foot flames. These did not go down well with club owners. Quorthon once joked that he wanted to sacrifice a lamb onstage, but this was a joke and nothing more.
- Bathory (1984)
- The Return... (1985)
- Under The Sign Of The Black Mark (1987)
- Blood Fire Death (1988)
- Hammerheart (1990)
- Twilight Of The Gods (1991)
- Jubileum Volume 1 (1992)
- Jublieum Volume 2 (1993)
- Requiem (1994)
- Octagon (1995)
- Blood On Ice (1996)
- Jubileum Volume 3 (1998)
The cover of the first album is a satanic goat. Originally printed in black and yellow (as the intended black and gold was too expensive), it was switched to black and white. 700 - 1000 of the black and yellow editions were printed (these copies of the album are known as 'The Yellow Goat'). These are very rare and valuable.
The running time for each album generally gets longer as time goes on. The first album is just 27 minutes long, but later ones are nearer the one hour mark.