Part II: The Gods
Through Blood By Thunder was considered to become the title of the album. A song with an intro that picks elements hinted at by Twilight of the Gods, herein the godless period of darkness is succeeded by a dithyramb of religious fervor, the lyric ‘there is no thrones up in the sky’ is supplanted by ‘my father’s gods, I’ll die for you’ and blood becomes a crucial element in this loose epic poem, namely the ‘bond of blood’.
Intro – Intro with Power Chords – Pause – Verse – Chorus – Intro – Verse – Pause – Solo – Verse – Conclusion
On the conclusion all the elements of the song converge, in a dialectical way. Texture wise the entire song has been a conversation among the vocals, the riffs and the solo, each providing its own climax up until the final one in the end when they reach a common understanding.
The introductory passage signifies eternity in the sense of being a cyclical arpeggio; yet this eternity is transient, as the same pattern answers every other bar, resembling rolling clouds in the sky. Among these, a beautiful bass ornament for the vigilant bending beneath the acoustic, emulates a lonely blooming flower emerging from the ashes of the overture.
A spoken word passage starts this clear water revival with a ritualistic vibe. An initiation, a baptism, into transient eternity.
For as long as the grass grows
For as long as the stream flows
And the sun shines down unto us
Only they who walks the clouds knows
For how long the wind blows
And the sky is blue above us
The flowing stream; you cannot enter into the same stream twice. This image sums up the totality of our tragedy. Nothing is forever, even the Gods.
Then the power chords kick in and there is a pause. The silence is used to change the rhythm, into the power chord avalanche that is the verse.
O, I am a man and I hold in my hand my fate
Free as the wind as if even
I had wings that carried me
Still in the middle of the night
Even I will need light to guide me
So I turn my face to the sky from
Where he with one eye is watching over me
One of the most eurematic verses that Bathory ever made, follows the ascending and descending chords, creating an abrasive harmony, that is however epic in its metallic beauty. Its minor character comes into contrast with the chorus, the joyful chorus that calls forth gratitude!
My fathers’ gods – I ride for you
My fathers’ gods – I fight for you
My fathers’ gods – I die for you
My fathers’ gods – I am coming through to you
My fathers’ gods – I am yours
THROUGH BLOOD BY THUNDER!
Like a theatrical play or a religious litany, a chorus of many voices evokes the Gods and a lone voice answers back. The symmetrical transposition of the riff a half step upwards, simultaneously with the transposition of the melodic line to the VIIth of the scale provides a smooth transition that rings a sentimental chord.
This feeling of love, is an adoration of power and beauty, in order not to merely submit to it, but also channel into one’s own way. This is not a religion of limitation, but one of light and life, focused on the individual’s destiny, which, paradoxically, bears no individualistic ring of burden, but is formed as a result of the ‘bond of blood’, evolution, the environment, ancestry, society – there is humility on this severe quest, to following the voice of Odin.
Crucial to expressing this hardship is the culmination of the chorus as the scale of the riff becomes minor. Thus far we see the following changes in the note arsenal, according to the dialectic triptychon Thesis – Antithesis – Synthesis:
Verse: D – E – F# – A
Chorus: (1/2 step up) D# – F – G (illusory major, until it adds A)
Chorus finish: D – E – F – G – A – A# (Aeolian)
See also that the intro fits on the scale of the verse. Juxtapose this to the intro of the next song and see how interest is sustained by diversity.
Imagine the strength of the being that provokes change within himself in accordance to a superior Will of a true and logical initiation; following Odin – being worthy of Valhalla.
Sound of wings in the air and
his ravens fly near to lead me
So I will not fail to ride down the trail
long time destined for me
long before I was born
Romanticizing the natural world, projecting one’s self unto it, humanization, those are things that people with a strong imaginative faculty would appreciate. Determinism clashes with freedom here, but nothing is resolved. Life is fine as it is. Life is to be experienced as a beautiful struggle.
And this beauty is summarized in the climax and one of the high points in the album: the solo. And especially the point of pure genius that the scale becomes major on the bending high strings! F# – G# A becomes F# – G# – A#
O, can you not see it is all
carved in the tree of fate
That a son of the north must forfill
his destined course to
follow the bond of blood
(Bond of blood Bond of blood
Bond of blood Bond of blood
Bond of blood Bond of blood
Bond of blood Bond of blood
Bond of blood Bond of blood)
The theme of blood is playing an important role throughout the record. It appears on three song titles, and it seems such as ‘Through Blood…’ and ‘Bond of Blood’ are connected with each other thematically. By studying Quorthon’s interviews, nationality and ancestry are deemed important – nevertheless, nothing is sacred, all idols are smashed. Would Quorthon or the true metal underground care about such views?
But underground if that’s the light way to describe it ( and above too it seems these days ) no one gives a shit and kicks the shit out of anyone claiming you to be a nazi or psycho when you say or show off that you are proud of either your nationality or history or whatever…
One cannot help but admire the purity of this “underground”, whose viewpoints are clear like the breeze on an inversed mountaintop. Perhaps raw heart and honesty were everything needed in the end. And some edge, to build the myth:
Did I really take satanism for real at any one time ? Sure I did… in ‘82-’85 I was so deep down into that shit I even joined a witchcraft circle here in Stockholm ( I lied about my age when joining ) and we had great satanic Sabbaths I tell you. Sex and stuff ( but I never ever tried the drugs ). But once I got the point where I actually read the whole bible to get some more meat on the bones when learning more about the enemy I realized that Satan and satanism was a product of christianity and that I found christianity a super mega bluff then satanism had to be it too. The reason why I turned to satanism in the first place was not just trying to be rebellious but simply coz my whole person was and still is so consumed with hatred towards the christian history, belief and theory. Some time in ’86 I turned my inner eyes and ears towards what people today call Odinism or Asatru or whatever even though these labels were yet to be invented I guess… at least within the metal horizons pre-christian Sweden fascinated me and gave me a new way to criticize christianity that was much more true than butt-fucking masked women on an altar in a dimmed basement somewhere and then spray the word Satan in ten feet letters all over a public wall down town at night or something. Has my opinion on satanism changed over the years ? Well I nowadays see it as just a way to tickle people’s imagination but I still wouldn’t use it as an idea for a song for the future… I’ve done all that already and haven’t starved or felt ashamed for ever having done it.
I tell you… this whole reborn nationalism we see in Sweden nowadays is a result of us picking up on the Scandinavian mythology and pre-christian Sweden all those years ago on « Blood Fire Death » and « Hammerheart » ( Sweden has been « christian » for almost one thousand one hundred years now ). This has caused us some problems coz the papers being all and all out in favor of all the inter-racial marriages and births happening here in Sweden since like eight or ten years now are sure always to dig deep into anything that might have influenced youngsters to learn how to sing our national hymn and on so claiming this particularly source of inspiration being all and all out pro-nazi etc. etc. But this was never our intention in the first place all those years ago… we just wanted to do something original. While all these German industrial area bands kept on singing about that damn wall and pollution and US bay area acts tried to copy Slayer or Metallica the best way they could, we wanted to be really first to do something nobody else dared to or could get away with doing. Being a swedish act it was just natural I guess once we had taken the step to jump off that satanic band wagon ( not meaning we had jumped on that damn thing to begin with… I’m led to believe that we were there creating all that shit together with acts like Venom, Hellammer and Slayer I guess… ).
Interviewer: What is Odinism to you ? Do you consider it to be just an interest or is it something greater ?
– It is certainly nothing « far greater »… what you call Odinism was just simply a different topic for the lyrics and not a sign of a different sort of awareness or national pride… well a little maybe. It means nothing to me I’m afraid to say other than they are great stories although no more true than the christian shit.
The Snorre Edda which is the very oldest written script of Swedish or Nordic history preserved, hasn’t meant anything to me at all I guess… because it is as close to a modern Swede as say the story about Excalibur and Merlin would be to you.
A great metal musician is all for freedom. Shackling the chains of decadence, regardless of origin, he rejects anything that stands on the way of tracing one’s own path.
Nevertheless, the songs either disprove him or are so exact in their depictions of the past, that we cannot escape using the Edda to decorate our attempt to decipher the band. In the end, Quorthon was a man of reason and was humane and respectful. Although he detested the actions of the Norwegian black metal scene, he was understanding towards the young participants of the circle, knowing that the hour of maturity comes to all.
The biggest fear of humanity has been the fear for the ultimate eschaton: Death. Metal’s pounding drums and dionysiac ecstacy break the chains for a while, awakening into us the desire to die for what is good and true. Yet, man here is merely a sacrificial offering to the gods and has a long way to go to attain his earthly as well as spiritual destiny and return to rejuvenate the world with his blood and sweat. But as a start from the emergence out of ignorance from the previous song, nothing great can the Will of man achieve if not subjected into a higher Will – until the time that the psychological archetype of the Father is celebrated in Bond of Blood and reality and myth become one!
After the devotional high has been experienced, we are going down again unto a descending chorale where choruses, singing and solos collide for the ultimate finale. The warrior sets forth on his journey, knowing that the gods reside within him: in his blood.
Indeed, we humans are a conglomeration of many different willpowers, a lot of them owed to our ancestors; we mimic their behavior even if we have never known them. As much distanced as we are from them, can we find the strongest voices among them and follow the voice of blood?
Can we say a big fuck you to music teachers who would advise not to follow the melodic line of the riff because ‘parallel voice movement is too harsh’? If not, then we do not deserve to play music. Listen to great music and do what thou wilt, like Quorthon – if not fuck off. Metal is not for conservatories that only understand Jeff Loomis – also a self-taught musician by the way!
In the end, what does the metal master have to teach us about life, by his words, actions and art? A warrior spirit, an adventurous spirit and above all, a spirit of liberation, in a song of exploration: Viking means explorer.
In the end, Quorthon is rightfully proud of his country and dismissive of the archaeolatric fervor in order to attain a clearer vision, free from the bonds of our modern understanding and projection, namely of subordinating our ancestors either into beasts or into preconceived expectations to fit our ideological narrative and superiority complexes. By this heretical attitude, he becomes an instrument for the gods and expresses as a clear depiction of the past as we can get by being an explorer, a true Viking.
He planted his foot on his spade and stamped it fiercely into the tough ground. As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport. Thunder again; words that proclaimed themselves true–truer somehow than truth itself. And yet that same Gloucester had called them ever-gentle gods. Besides, thy best of rest is sleep and that thou oft provok’st; yet grossly fear’st thy death which is no more. No more than sleep. Sleep. Perchance to dream. His spade struck against a stone; he stooped to pick it up. For in that sleep of death, what dreams? …
~Brave New World