Black Metal 2nd Wave – The Origins
By the late 80’s I was done with UK post-punk and was looking towards US bands for inspiration.
Sonic Youth and Pixies were a mighty reference but also The Jesus Lizard, Fugazi, Buthole Surfers or Faith No More, to name a few. Then, in some house party somebody played a truly screamer of a track. It was from The Young God’s 1989 album ‘L’Eau Rouge’ and I was floored. I felt like the first time I listened to Sex gang Children or Swans, it was exhilarating and the most exciting sound I had heard for a long time. Little did I know that would be my gateway to Metal.
But first, enter Ministry. Till then I was oblivious to Metal, I despised hard rock and glam and wouldn’t go anywhere near Iron Maiden or Judas Priest but listening to Ministry’s 1989 album ‘The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste’ open the floodgates to a new sound that I wanted to investigate. Through subsequent releases by Ministry, Swans, Godflesh, Fudge Tunel or Prong, I dug deeper into their industrial and trash influences and through a little bit of Metallica I got myself straight into Death and Doom-Metal.
Early education from Paradise Lost, Slayer and Sepultura gave way to more extreme acts such as Morbid Angel, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death. This happens between 1990-92 and the whole Grunge phenomenon (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains…) and Rap-Metal abuse (Rage against The Machine, Red Hot Chilly Peppers…) is starting to really blow in Europe. I am paying attention. Reading an article about Nirvana on some zine ahead of the release of ‘Nevermind’ I decide to place an oder for the record in my local record store. Three weeks later my mother gets the call. I was the first guy with a copy in my town. I lend it to the local live music venue, kids go nuts. It is a good record but my mind is already somewhere else.
It’s sometime in 1993. Another lazy Saturday afternoon at a friend’s house. Somebody plays a very unique record. It’s Bathory’s 1988 ‘Blood Fire Death’.
I had listened to inspired intros, from classical to Vangelis, but ‘Oden Ride over Nordland’ coupled with the cover of the album sent chills down my spine. The front cover comes from ‘The Wild Hunt of Odin’, a painting dated from 1872 by Peter Nicolai Arbo. The Wild Hunt motif is taken from Viking era folklore, an image that has since become popular with a number of the Second Wave of Black Metal bands, particularly from Scandinavia.
The first track blends into ‘A Fine day to Die’. The acoustic part turns into the first ever pagan/black metal track I have ever listened to.
This is unlike anything Metal I had experienced before. It’s cold but beautiful. It’s production is raw but you can hear everything. Again, the acoustic guitar and choir chants come in to soothe things, tempo and mood changing. The guitar work/solo that follows is absolutely on point, screaming atmosphere and intent, and I DON’T like solos.
The highlight of the album though is the title track ‘Blood Fire Death’, which is still my favorite 10 minute metal track ever in my book.
There’s no words to describe the intensity and emotion radiating from this track. This is a special record, not the first or highest ranked by Bathory but acknowledged as quintessential and a mandatory listen for any serious extreme metal fan.It is important to note that at the time of its recording Bathory was essentially a solo project, with its founder Quorthon arranging every bit of music, writing every lyric, singing all vocals, and playing every instrument. Bathory may never get the recognition it deserves, but considering Quorthon’s incredibly influential body of work, most of which he did on his own from this album on, it would be fair to call him one of contemporary music’s truly underappreciated geniuses.
RIP Quorthon (1966-2004). Gone too soon.