Bathory - Hammerheart
Black Mark
Viking Metal
7 songs (54:50)
Release year: 1990
Bathory, Black Mark
Reviewed by Jeff

I've been wanting to review Bathory's "Hammerheart" album for a while now. With the recent passing of Quorthon, I felt it was only right to expedite this review as a tribute to whom many consider the founding father of what we now know as Viking Metal.

Bathory were essentially believed to be a one-man operation helmed by the mysterious Quorthon. The first Bathory album I ever bought was "Under the Sign: The Sign of the Black Mark". To me, this album is pure evil! It has a mix of furious Death Metal Thrash tracks like "Massacre" and "Equimanthorn" as well as more diversified songs such as "Call From the Grave" and "Enter the Eternal Fire". One really needs to have the stomach to listen to such brutal music!

The first hints of the Viking Metal style can be heard on the album "Blood Fire Death". This release marks a change in musical direction for Bathory. In addition to thrash tracks like "Pace Til' Death", there are slower songs in tempo like "Oden's Ride Over Nordland" that emulates galloping battalions of doom and destruction, supported by dramatic orchestral arrangements with horrific death screams as well as the introduction of clean vocals and acoustic guitars. It was also Bathory's best produced album at the time, where the audio fidelity was much higher and present in the mix unlike the sound found on the three previous releases. The most epic track on the album, "Blood Fire Death", was a template for the formula and style that Bathory would continue to use for "Hammerheart".

For me "Hammerheart" is the best Bathory album ever! It was a landmark album of the genre for what we now know as Viking Metal; also their first conceptual work lyrically from beginning to end. The story documents the Christian invasion of Scandinavia during medieval times and their crusade to convert the pagans to Christianity. The well thought out lyrics of "Hammerheart" created strong anti-Christian sentiment within the region's extreme metal scene, spawning other pagan black metal bands like Emperor, Mayhem and Enslaved to create music even more intense and brutal than Bathory's. The songs on "Hammerheart" were epic in nature; long and majestic. The songs are slow paced, giving the feel of boats sailing the seas and armies marching into battle. They make the listener feel as if they are on a journey with the mighty Vikings. Throughout the album there are acoustic guitars, thundering, bombastic drums, thick, heavy guitar power chords and clean, understandable vocals. Bathory also layered the vocals, giving them a ghostly choir feeling. At times they used sound effects like that of waves crashing the shoreline and the sounds of animals. Even though the musical arrangements and musicianship of Bathory aren't the most advanced or technically complex, it is Quorthon's heart and soul that drives the music in order to convey his story to the listener. The end result is a classic that he has tried to match on his other Viking themed albums like "Twilight of the Gods", "Blood On Ice", "Nordland Part I" and "Nordland Part II".

Bathory easily ranks among one of the most important Scandinavian metal acts of the 80's and 90's. Few originators of such extreme metal have evoked feelings that are evil, menacing, hostile and aggressive in tone. Still, they won the admiration and support of fans worldwide. Sweden's Bathory, along with England's Venom and Switzerland's Celtic Frost can lay claim to seriously affecting the evolution of the Death Metal genre over the next two decades. Bathory took the rawest form of Black Metal and mixed it in with Thrash and Death Metal, only to go back to Viking-themed Metal, which seemed to be the formula that worked best and the direction they were on a course to stay with.

Even people like Marilyn Manson, Billy Corgan and the members of Metallica have all listened to Bathory. I hope there is some leftover material in the Bathory vaults that will be released in the future. Like the late Chuck Schuldner of Death, (the father of technical death metal), the music and presence of Quorthon will be deeply sorely missed. R.I.P.

Killing Songs :
Jeff quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Bathory that we have reviewed:
Bathory - Blood On Ice reviewed by Ben and quoted 93 / 100
Bathory - Bathory reviewed by Jared and quoted CLASSIC
Bathory - Under the Sign of the Black Mark reviewed by Jared and quoted CLASSIC
Bathory - Blood Fire Death reviewed by Tyler and quoted CLASSIC
Bathory - Nordland II reviewed by Jay and quoted 71 / 100
To see all 8 reviews click here
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