Monday, April 29, 2013

The Strongest Day of Metal

For those of us who think about numbers and calendar dates (guilty!), one thought experiment that is sure to occur at some time during the year is "What day this year is/was/will be the best for metal?" Since I'm the sort of person who thinks about that kind of thing, allow me to hazard a prediction. I think that it will be tomorrow, April 30th.

There are three albums that come out tomorrow that are all incredibly strong, and I am sure will end up on many year end lists, quite possibly in the #1 slot:
In addition to these excellent albums, we also see releases from Amorphis and Cathedral, Purson and The Melvins, and even HIM and Heaven Shall Burn, if you're into that kind of thing. If you know of a single day that has had stronger releases or that you suspect will, go ahead and leave a comment!

Edit: It has been pointed out to me that releases from Deep Purple, Revelation, Avantasia, and Battle Dagorath are also coming out on April 30th. I have no firsthand knowledge on the quality or lack thereof of said releases.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top 20 of...2012? Part 1

Now that we're nearly at the end of April, you've probably all been enjoying a number of 2013 releases. I happen to know that there are a number of great albums coming out next Monday. Be sure to check out the new Arsis album, Unwelcome, which I just reviewed over at Last Rites. If death metal isn't your thing, there have been plenty of excellent releases in all genres, from doom to power metal. But I'm going to take this chance to actually look backwards. Now that we're a quarter of a year removed from 2012, how are last year's best standing up against the newest releases? Time to finally bring out my Top 20 of 2012 list. Here are the first five.

20. Allegaeon - Formshifter

I'm more than willing to admit that Allegaeon's second album isn't as strong as their excellent debut Fragments of Form and Function (which ranked at #11 on my list in 2010). Perhaps the fact that they lost their drummer sometime in 2011 and recorded Formshifter with a session musician contributed to the lack of growth for the band. But I'm still as sucker for this kind of super catchy, melodic, technical death metal. In a year when bands like Spawn of Possession and Gorod failed to impress me, Allegaeon showed me that I'm still open to some great melodic shredding. From the industrial drill breakdown of "Behold (God I Am)" to the off-kilter groove of "Iconic Images," to the flamenco-inspired acoustic guitars of "Secrets of the Sequence," Formshifter kept me smiling. Yes, the album has flaws. Most of the songs are in the same key and around the same tempo, leaving a lot less distinction between tracks that one might hope for. But I've always picked my albums because they make me happy, not because I would necessarily hold them all up as examples of flawless execution. Allegaeon is one of those bands that drives me back into the woodshed time and time again. Let's hope that the sudden abundance of legal weed in their home state of Colorado doesn't distract Allegaeon from pushing technical death metal to new levels.

19. Unleashed - Odalheim

Unleashed have been around since the beginning of death metal, way back at the end of the 80s. Their first full-length, Where No Life Dwells, released in 1991, is an all-time classic. And in 2012, with their eleventh full-length album (not counting two live albums), they're back at the top of the Swedish death game. Odalheim is everything that their last few releases haven't been—immediate, powerful, catchy, and brutal. Instead of relying on the buzzsaw guitar sound of the other Swedish death elite, Unleashed brings knife-edged tremolo guitars to the mix, but still with plenty of chuging riffs and melodic solos—this isn't black metal, after all. Johnny Hedlund's vocal delivery is stronger than ever, as he delivers songs about ancient warriors from all over the world in both snarled and bellowed form (the word "battalions" is by far his favourite). I've found Unleashed's last several albums to be somewhat less than remarkable, but Odalheim is bursting at the seams with catchy, thrash-along moments. Album opener "Fimbulwinter" is my personal favourite, but the album continues strong all the way through closer "The Great Battle of Odalheim," touching on the Mayans, the Celts, and the Germans in their round up of global warriors. Appropriately apocalypticly themed, Odalheim was a great album for a year the world was supposed to end.

18. Christian Mistress - Possession

Here's an album in a completely different style. Christian Mistress is the best of a crop of female-fronted "occult rock" groups that have cropped up in the past two years. Christine Davis matches powerful vocals with the extremely retro-styled riffage of Oscar Sparbel and Ryan McClain. Skinman Reuben W. Storey keeps it loose and quick, and Johnny Wulf fills out the sound with bass groove. Bands like Christian Mistress often raise the question "what is metal?" as these groups seems to have more in common with hard rock groups like Led Zeppelin and Motorhead than modern metal bands. A careful listen, however, reveals plenty of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest influence—just listen to the opening riff on "Black To Gold." It's metal. I for one love this style, and don't care about sticking it in a genre box (although I did move Jess and the Ancient Ones to my Top 5 Non-Metal Albums list). Title track "Possession" is probably my favourite, but I often find myself with other song stuck in my head as well. The album features a slightly drier and even more retro feeling production than 2010's Agony and Opium, which suits the music well. If modern metal has you feeling like this guy from Brutal Legend, then you need to listen to Christian Mistress. The past is alive again, and stronger than ever.

17. Meshuggah - Koloss

Meshuggah have been shaping the face of progressive metal for twenty-five years. They've built a reputation for heavy sounds and off-kilter polyrythmic drums and ridiculous eight-string guitars. Yes, these are the guys who first tuned down to F#, who first encountered tones so low that they needed to stretch the scale and add an extra string just to keep the intonation right. The fact that Koloss is only their seventh album (not counting 2006's rerecording of Nothing or their several EPs) hides just how staggeringly influential this band has been. They're even credited/blamed with creating the entire sub-genre of "djent" music (just listen to "Stengah" and you'll know what I'm talking about). So does Meshuggah still have anything left to contribute? Absolutely. Koloss has a primordial and organic heft to it that's missing from some of their old music. Just compare album opener "I Am Colossus" to the aforementioned "Stengah," and you'll see that the near-sterile digital quality of the older track has been enrichened with an absolutely cavernous reverb. I think that the greatness of Koloss must be dug for, as opposed to 2008's obZen, which put all the Swedes' brilliance on display. In many ways, this album is simpler than obZen, much in the same way that Nothing was simpler than Chaosphere. Meshuggah continue to use the eight-string guitar in exciting and new ways. I would encourage you to keep listening to this one, and you will hear it unlock.

16. Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction

This four-piece from Little Rock has produced one of the most exceptional piece of doom metal that I have heard in a year that was absolutely stuffed full of great doom metal. The album starts out so slowly that if you approach it in the wrong mindset, you'll actually get bored. But when you come at this right, this music wraps itself around you and carries you away. The production is absolutely fantastic. You can hear every note, particularly of the bass, which burbles and growls its way through some catchy lines, and the whole thing has this analogue warmth to it that some of my favourite doom bands were missing this year (Daylight Dies and Swallow the Sun in particular). Also in contrast to those two bands, Pallbearer features only clean singing. And what lyrics they are! Album closer "Given to the Grave" is one of the most powerful expressions of funeral doom that I've ever heard, and this band doesn't even play "funeral doom." Brett Campbell's voice is actually sprinkled fairly sparsely through this album, interspersed with lyrical lead guitar, and the ballance is excellent. It's rare that you hear true sadness rendered this beautifully. It's been a great year for Pallbearer, with a full length release on Profound Lore and two showcasings by Scion A/V. I can't imagine this band has anywhere to go but up.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Into the Void: Into the Macabre

Necrodeath - Into the Macabre (?/?/1987)
The album opens and closes with a creepy little musicbox number that actually gives you a good impression of what Necrodeath will be like. They're not going for the ultra-blasphemous silliness that would be implied by a down-pitched man speaking evil words, and they're not going for the epic atmosphere that would be stirred by an orchestral intro. No, these Italians are going for a horror movie vibe, and it's a nice change from what I've heard from Italy so far. Necrodeath are, like Mayhem, a functional trio, with one guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, and a vocalist. They don't use stage names, and they play fast and furious in a style that draws more from Bathory than most of the bands that we've heard from so far.

Ingo, the vocalist, usually barks out his vocals rapid-fire, like a slightly less intense Mille Petrozza, but occasionally uses studio effects to give his voice a more deep, evil sounding tone. Okay, I was wrong. Necrodeath does subscribe to the "pitch-shifted vocals = devil talk" philosophy, as demonstrated in "Master Tenebraum" and "Internal Decay." Because of the intensity of the music, it doesn't sound quite as silly as when previous bands have done it, though. The drums feature plenty of simple blasts and D-beats, and never feel like they're lagging behind. The guitars, on the other hand, while not sloppy, feel extremely limp, as though guitarist Claudio is barely touching the strings with his pick. I don't know if it's an element of his technique, or just the way the album was recorded, but I often found myself thinking "Just fucking dig in, already!" It's disappointing, because with a stronger guitar sound, this album could have been quite remarkable.

Necrodeath undoubtedly plays black/thrash music, clearly drawing from Slayer as much as Bathory. This is particularly apparent in "Necrosadist," one of my favourite cuts from the album, and "Internal Decay," with its whammy-abusing guitar solo. The occasional use of clean guitars and seemingly detuned notes helps add to that horror movie feeling. Album closer "The Undead" exemplifies the band's strengths and weaknesses, blending a great Bathory-esque out-of-control mess of notes with some tremolo guitars and mid-tempo thrash verses and a Slayer-inspired guitar solo for some evil times. Into the Macabre is a decent album that has been overshadowed since the day it came out, and is nearly unknown today.

Final Verdict: 5/10 - the strongest Italian offering yet, but still not great enough to be remembered much

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Into the Void: The 7th Day of Doom

Tormentor - The Seventh Day of Doom (Demo) (?/?/1987)

Tormentor hailed from Hungary, and are mainly remembered today as the first band of Attila Csihar. They never actually released an official album, and the material that exists from them is incredibly rough and unpolished. Some people find this to be charming. I am not necessarily one of those people. While I certainly appreciate a lo-fi recording, there's a profound difference between something like Transylvanian Hunger, which sounds raw and organic, and this demo, which sounds like it was recorded with a single microphone stuck under downy blanket.

Still, there's plenty to be gleaned from this album, particularly with the knowledge that this tape was extensively passed around the fledgeling black metal scene. Tormentor was a a five-piece band, and unlike the rest of the bands we have encountered so far made extensive use of their dual guitarists to play solos. This tendancy towards wheedly-wheedly guitarism (mostly the solos are just a few notes played really fast over and over and over) reminds me more of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest (or maybe Kerry King) than it does Bathory or Venom. The songs are also goddamn long. I'm not sure if it was some sort of conscious choice from the band, but they have one song that's 5 minutes, one at 6, and one at 7, 8, 9, and 10 minutes (there's also one at 5:30, so maybe not).

Attila's vocals are definitely the most unique element of the recording (the riffs aren't, as all the songs sound pretty much exactly the same to me). He croaks, he howls, he bellows and crows. He's certainly not all that understandable, but I think that may be more due to the production than his particular style of delivery. This album was recorded seven years before he joined with Mayhem, and his voice obviously sounds younger and less developed. But his madcap warblings are an interesting contrast to Quorthon's much more controlled snarl. Both he and his band, however, have a long way to improve, and we will revist them a couple years down the road.

Final Verdict: 3/10 - If this was all that Tormentor left us with, I doubt they would be remembered today

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Into the Void: I.N.R.I.

Sarcófago - I.N.R.I. (Aug, 1987)

Another Brazilian quartet, Sarcófago inspired black metal's style as well as its sound. I.N.R.I. came out right around the same time as Deathcrush, and Euronymous and Sarcófago vocalist Antichrist corresponded by letter (oh, pre-Internet world). This is where the corpse paint style in black metal comes from, not Arthur Brown or KISS (except for Immortal). I.N.R.I. also comes with Fenriz's seal of approval, just in case you were wondering what TRVE black metal was. The band members, however, considered themselves to be a death metal band. It just goes to show. They do live up to the black metal ideal, though, in naming themselves Antichrist, Incubus, Butcher, and D.D. Crazy. D.D. Crazy? Okay, then.

In my opinion, D.D. Crazy can call himself whatever the fuck he wants, because he was an absolute monster on the drums. Up to this point, we've barely heard any blast beats. Skullcrusher (see, Igor knew how to choose a stage name) used a few in "Antichrist," and Manheim blasted a bit on Deathcrush (particularly in the gutsfucking part of "Chainsaw Gutsfuck,") but I.N.R.I. is the next thing to a Marduk album. The snare is sharp and punchy, and he's hitting the kick and the snare together (what will later be called the "Suffocation blast" or the "Mike Smith blast"). These aren't your ska-rockin' dad's skank beats. You've got to admire D.D.'s balls-out approach to drumming, but he did suffer from the same thing that Stefan Larsson did on the first two Bathory albums—namely lagging tempos. It sometimes feels that while he starts a song out with abandon, by the end, he's struggling to keep up with the band (this is particularly noticable on album opener "Satanic Lust"). Out of nine tracks, four are two minutes or shorter, and these quick songs are where the band pulls together the strongest.

The guitar tone is a highlight of the album, I think. It's a completely different sound from what Sepultura had, and seems to capture that "real instruments in a room" ideal that Fenriz is always spouting off about. The tone is pretty light, actually, particularly when compared to Euronymous's heavily distorted buzz (I happen to know that Euronymous used a Tube Screamer into a Marshall JVM800, in immitation of Tom G. Warrior). The technique is something of a combination of thrash phrasings with a lot of unmuted tremolos. Another functional trio, Butcher is the only guitarist, and although some of the solos are overdubbed, it's basically just him and his strings, pounding it out.

The lyrics are, frankly, the low point of the album. If simple blasphemies like "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, Jesus Christ" and promising girls "torrential orgasms" is what does it for you, I suppose you'll enjoy I.N.R.I. What interests me is the similarity between Sarcófago's lyrics and Bulldozer's, because both bands came from heavily Catholic countries, and both bands fixated heavily on juvenile blasphemies and crude sexuality, while Sweden and Norway, which have Protestant state churches, produced much more elegantly delivered anti-religious material (although not always, and we'll deal with Finland when we get there). The actuall vocal delivery, on the other hand, is pretty good. Antichrist rasps his way through songs like "Deathtrash" and "Satanic Lust" in a way not dissimilar to Kreator's Mille Petrozza, but with more cough and less snarl, if that makes sense.

Final Verdict: 6/10 - some great guitar and invoative drumming are weight down by juvenile lyrics and, franky, underdeveloped musicianship

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Into the Void: Deathcrush

In case it wasn't abundantly clear, the entire post about Howlin' Wolf was an April Fools joke. But this album here is no joke. The time has come to address the most infamous band in all of black metal. It's ironic, considering their influence on the scene and their presence in the media, how little music they've actually released, and how inconsistent in style and quality that music is. And yet, the very essence of the band is that they consider themselves to be the very definition of black metal. That's right, ladies and gentlement. It's time for Mayhem.

Mayhem - Deathcrush EP (Aug, 1987)

Black metal has finally come to Norway, and this is where it would fester and grow into an uncontrolable force. Mayhem, the brainchild of one Øystein Aarseth, better known as Euronymous, was, like the majority of the bands that came before them, a functional trio—one guitar, one bass, one drummer. But because none of the musicians in the band could perform vocals, Mayhem added a fourth member as a dedicated vocalist. Who this vocalist was would vary back and forth between Maniac and Messiah up until 1988, and so both singers appear on Deathcrush, with Maniac singing the majority of the tracks, and Messiah coming in on "Witching Hour" and "Pure Fucking Armageddon."

Oh, yeah, "Witching Hour." This is what it sounds like when a black metal band plays Venom. The song originally appeared on Venom's debut, Welcome to Hell, from which the name of the band was also derived ("Mayhem with Mercy"). Messiah's vocals are more shouty in the Teutonic thrash style than Maniac's, who howls completely out of control like a stuck pig, but neither of them are too comprehensible thanks to the warbly reverb effect on the vocals that Mayhem borrowed from Sodom's Obsessed by Cruelty. Speaking of things borrowed from earlier bands, Necrobutcher's growling overdriven bass style is pure Celtic Frost. Manheim, the drummer, drew from Sepultura's frenetic blasting to form his own completely off-the-rails style. Like the bands before them, Mayhem included an intro track on their album, but unlike the stupid spoken word devil declarations of some of the other bands, Mayhem chose an eerie synth drum track. Nothing the band was doing was a simple carbon copy of anything that had been played before, but when you listen to all this music from Venom to Mayhem, you can hear the influences building up.

What is completely new, however, is Euronymous's guitar playing. While Deathcrush is obviously early in the development of his style (the main riff from "Chainsaw Gutsfuck" could have come from Hellhammer or the early Celtic Frost demos), he had begun a new style of playing riffs with pure, unmuted tremolo picking. His style was different from the thrash players of the time, from Slayer to Destruction, because he wasn't muting the strings to get a heavy, chunky sound. He was just letting them all go, making the guitar sound as out of control as Maniac's vocals.

To my ears and mind, Euronymous was Mayhem. Yes, Necrobutcher still refers to Mayhem as "my band," and Euronymous as "my guitarist," but that's just because Mayhem is and always was a band full of egomaniacs. I'll be talking a lot more about Euronymous and the black metal scene once we get into the 90s and the formation of Helvete and Deathlike Silence Productions. At this point, however, they've crystalized the black metal sound. After Deathcrush, crappy bands like Bulldozer aren't going to cut it anymore.The Teutonic bands will delve into full thrash (or even death/thrash). Quorthon will start exploring his Viking heritage. And a whole new breed of bands will arise. Get ready for it.

Final Verdict: 8/10 - Mayhem changed the game with Deathcrush. Between this and Under the Sign of the Black Mark, 1987 was the definitive year for black metal.

Now we know what black metal is supposed to sound like. It's still the late eighties, though, and the so-called "Second Wave" of black metal hasn't started yet. I'll explain my use of the term "so-called" when we actually get there. For now, we have a few more bands to cover as the scene slowly forms around Mayhem.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Into The Void: Moanin' At Midnight

I hope you're loving this journey as much as I am. The fact is that I've just barely scratched the surface, and I've already had to rethink a lot of what I though I knew about black metal. As I believe I mentioned at the beginning, I originally had no desire to cover the early years of Venom, Bathory, and Sodom, and had wanted to jump right into the 1990s. But my friend Dan Obstkrieg convinced me that if I wanted to do things right, then I needed to look further back than that. And he was absolutely right. I wouldn't be able to understand Darkthrone without understanding Venom and Celtic Frost.

But the more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that I actually need to go further back. Venom is absolutely essential, not only because they coined the term "black metal," but for their unrelenting Satanism. But even Venom didn't exist in a vacuum, and as I've been researching and listening to albums, I've realized that there is one major influence that I've "missed" by setting an arbitrary start date of 1981. I've been busy writing reviews of new music for the site (seriously, be ready to snatch up Aosoth's IV on April 16!), and progress on this project has been slow enough, so I've been reluctant to go backward, but I've decided that the best way to make up for lost time is with "flashbacks." The way I'm going to do these is occasionally stick an older album in the flow of things, like I'm about to do now. Since there are obviously a lot fewer of these than there are albums going forward, by the time we hit 1992 (maybe 1993, depending on how often I bring you these features) we should be done with the older material, and able to go forward in a straight line like I originally intended. So without further ado, let's hit our first flashback.

Howlin' Wolf - Moanin' At Midnight (1958)
Born Chester Arthur Burnett, Wolf probably never imagined that he would influence a group of angry youngsters half a world away. But the truth is undeniable. One of the first men to put electric guitar to vinyl, Howlin' Wolf forged a path that would be trod by countless bands after him. Burnett was recordin radio-unfriendly music back in the late fifties and early sixties using a pseudonym and an anonymous band a quarter century before Quorthon formed Bathory. In fact, it's amazing just how much Wolf (a name that Kristian Vikernes would reference when he renamed himself "Varg" in 1993) foreshadowed Bathory. Using minor keys, lo-fi production, and distorted vocals, Howlin' Wolf produced music like no-one else was recording. He was more darker than T-Bone Walker, and more intensely emotional than Muddy Waters.

Wolf's short tracks had something else in common with Bathory and Venom. The majority of songs are about evil women. I'm not even kidding—"How Many More Years," "Baby How Long," "No Place to Go," "Asked For Water," the obviously titled "Evil"—this guy was more obsessed with wicked women than even Bulldozer with their huge Italian cocks. And, like Venom and Bathory, he defined a genre around him. Typically, he used just raw electric guitar with some drums and bass, but occasionally he added in American folk instrumentation, once again predicting a move that Quorthon would make thirty years later. And of course, the album was released exclusively on vinyl, aside from a limited run cassette release in Italy in 1987. What could be more KVLT? While Wolf went on to produce a number of well regarded songs in his field, I think that Moanin' At Midnight is his rawest and his best, and so deserves to be considered as the first truly black metal album.

Final Verdict: 6/10 - while the songwriting and vocals are stupendous, the drum work is fairly unoriginal and didn't push the genre far.

Into the Void: Under the Sign of the Black Mark

1987. This was the year that black metal truly started to sound like black metal as we know it today. It was also the year I was born, so I feel a particular affinity to the albums from this year. But don't think that means I'm going to rate them unfairly. Oh, no. These albums can stand on their own.
One of the problems that I've run into with 1987 (and it continues from here on out) is that I wasn't able to find release dates for many of the albums, aside from the year. So when I don't have a month for the album release, I'll go with the month it was recorded, if I can find that out. If I can't figure that out either, I'll just stick it at the end of the year after I've done everything I have dates for. That's the best I can manage.

Bathory - Under the Sign of the Black Mark (May, 1987)

Sometimes, bands are able to crank out album after perfect album, year after year (Darkthrone's string of 92-95 comes to mind). Sometimes, bands are better off taking a break from that kind of release schedule and taking the time to dig deep within the music. For Quorthon, this was definitely the case. After putting out albums in 1984 and 1985, as well as appearing on both Scandinavian Metal Attack compilations, Bathroy took a break from the studio in 1986. Then they exploded back onto the scene with this absolute monster. The rather goofy cover (especially compared to Bathory) might make you think that Under the Sign of the Black Mark would be cheesy, like some kind of "eviler than thou" Man O' War. Oh, you would be so wrong.

By this point, Quorthon had shed most of the weight of a band, realizing that he had no intentions of playing live with Bathory. He handled all the strings himself, effectively making the band a duo (although Christer Sandström is credited on the album for bass, it's unclear what tracks he actually appears on). Stefan Larsson, who did skin duty on the first two Bathory albums, was out, and Paul Lundberg was in. And although this would be the only album he would record, he did a damn fine job. He didn't have the pure furious energy of the Brazilian drumers (Igor "Skullcrusher" Cavalera and D.D. Crazy in particular), but he had a much more powerful presence on the kit than Larsson. Whether laying down a solid groove for epic "Enter the Eternal Fire" or slamming it full speed on "Massacre," Lundberg's snare rings out true through the mix. It's a very splashy sound that contrasts sharply with the more blended snare of The Return or Bathory, and while his blasts aren't as speedy as some other drummers, they have teeth-gritting solidity to them that I love. Larsson often sounded like he was struggling to match Quorthon's tempos. Lundberg's style says "I could do this all day."

Quorthon himself has improved everything. His guitar playing is tight and focused, with none of the "flailing" feel of Bathory. Songs like "Chariots of Fire" have a furious tremolo attack that doesn't wear down or get distracted. The improvised guitar solos (which Quorthon admits he never practiced) are all rip-roaring, finger-shredding monsters—not the kind of solos you would sit down and learn note-for-note, but the kind of solos that make you thrash your limbs around in a frenzied air-guitar mayhem. One of the standout tracks, though, is the mid-tempoed "Enter the Eternal Fire." This song hints at where Quorthon plans to go next with the band, but it's still a throughly "black metal" track—one that will be a clear influence on bands like Immortal. Again, Quorthon's lyric writing abilities have only gotten stronger (although he hasn't yet reached the summit), with even the ode to Elizabeth Bathory ("Woman of Dark Desires") being a complex piece of poetry, and Quorthon delivers everything with an uncompromising snarl that I wish I could channel when I work on my own project.

The one other extremely important thing that Quorthon did on Under the Sign of the Black Mark is introduced keyboards (which he himself played) into the black metal vocabulary. There's not really a lot to say about it, other than that they are there, and they add to the music, giving the album a full sound that doesn't need to be taken up by excess reverb. But most importantly, they mean that when bands like Emperor and Dimmu Borgir (re) introduce keyboards to the black metal sound in 1994, they are not "killing" or "perverting" the TRVEKVLT sounds of black metal as defined by some group of uncompromising arbiters of "the real black metal sound." We'll talk more about that when we get to those bands, but I wanted to point out that it started here, with Quorthon.

Quorthon would be back in 1988 with Blood Fire Death and a whole new sound, which is, arguably, "not black metal." On the other hand, Blood Fire Death and Hammerheart are fantastic albums, and I will be covering them when I get there.

Final Verdict: 9/10 - Quorthon changed the game with this relase, and set a high bar for Scandinavian black metal that wouldn't be met for at least five years (and some say ever). This is the height of Bathory's black metal days.