Bathory “Blood on Ice” (1988/1996)

“Blood on Ice” is one of the essential metal albums, being both the termination point of black metal and the beginning of Viking metal, years before either sound became full-fledged genres. Some might argue about whether or not it belongs on a website specializing in experimental metal—it’s straightforward even by the standards of heavy metal—but it’s a pioneering album, the fountainhead of sounds and lyrical themes we now take for granted. It was new and innovative.

One can imagine the young Quorthon furtively assembling the bits and pieces, knowing he was onto something exciting. Sadly, Quorthon underestimated his own abilities and left the album unfinished until 1996. As a result, the first proper Viking metal album wasn’t actually released until the basic concept had already solidified into a working genre.

Sure, “Blood Fire Death” might be the first Viking metal album thematically, but “Blood on Ice” took the concept much further, making the distinction between blazing thrashy black metal and heroic Viking metal far more apparent. It’s a concept album about a young Norse hero traveling far and wide to avenge the death of his family. Clearly Qurothon had seen “Conan the Barbarian.”

It’s a frosty affair, big and bold, deliberately paced epic metal with shades of folk and mood-setting samples (snorting horses, forging of swords, clashing of weapons and old men rapping about ancient Norse prophecies). With its mechanical drum sound and generally mid-tempo gallop, the album sometimes sounds like industrial music for medieval enthusiasts. It’s a primitive affair, with simple songs and a fucked-up production, and yet, beautifully inspired, metal taken to new heights of epic grandeur.

Because it was deemed unsuitable for release, the sound, re-mastered though it may be, is raw, clumsy and flat. Quorthon was new to the whole singing thing, and his voice is wildly uneven. But when he really pushes it, as he does on “The Lake,” his voice is as resounding and powerful as the best metal has to offer. He does a great job warbling his way through balls out heavy metal thrash fests like “One Eyed Old Man.” But it’s ultimately the untested honesty of his singing that sets it apart, lacking range but dripping authenticity. This is not some tongue-in-cheek irony-laden entertainment, but a sincere and convincing performance.

“Blood on Ice” might have been buried, but it still served a purpose; it was the prototype for the balls to the wall folk-inflected metal sound that future bands (Falkenbach, Einherjer, Thyfring, Enslaved, etc.) would draw on. The album suggests the frosty outer limits of black metal, the possibilities that lay beyond self-imposed Satanism and evil posturing. By pulling in elements from folk music, Norse mythology and Manowar, Quorthon single-handedly created (forged?) Viking metal.

-James Slone


Release:  1988/1996
Label:  Black Mark
Avantgenre:  Proto-Viking Metal
Duration:  53:36
Origin:  Sweden
Official site:  None
Review online since:  04.05.2008 / 11:07:18


01 – Intro
02 – Blood On Ice
03 – Man Of Iron
04 – On Eyed Old Man
05 – The Sword
06 – The Stallion
07 – The Woodwoman
08 – The Lake
09 – Gods Of Thunder Of Wind If Rain
10 – The Ravens
11 – The Revenge Of The Blood On Ice

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.