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Bathory - Blood on Ice
Review: Epic masterpiece metal from the seventies grows older and becomes this strange Viking punk fusion, a metal that uses mellow dark punk riffs under a overbearing story of quest and battle. The earlier Bathory albums that inspired a genre following had a similar basic structure interpreted more rigorously and aggressively with a power chord bludgeon searing grind overload, but here this stuff is more - well, normal rock - and with that handicap it makes good, even though it retains the fundamentally ludicrous and performance-art-oriented nature of black metal.
Sometimes it seems absurdly happy yet the music is dark, drawn-out strumming of chords and tremello rhythms with the strident, youthful voice of Quorthon wailing his operatic vocals in disturbing counterpoint to his music. Romanticism kept barely dormant in this campfire rockish material breaks forth in the vocals and keyboards but seems overemphasizing the solid basis of the guitar riffs, which provide a strobing rhythm faintly colored with NWOBHM around which the programmed, repetitive drums and accompaniment play.
The aesthetic as a whole is troubling because of its guilelessness. Where majesty and vast motion of sound occurred on Bathory and Celtic Frost albums earlier, this work approaches directly in a simple honesty and overdemonstrated emotion similar to that of folk and Viking rock from past ages. The use of harmonies and the variations in strumming speed determine paired rhythmic and modal concepts to be later pioneered by faster black metal bands such as Darkthrone, Immortal, and Enslaved.
Like anything from a former age, there are some parts that are recognizably parameter - that is, part of membership in the genre in which the art is created - but these are held well by the more inspiring and raw, potential-laden forms of the sound Quorthon was developing. But as time passes, he still grasps the bare minimum component of his music which is the logician's ability to structure a riff by dividing modalities into a rhythm, an ability that makes his albums always vaguely memorable if inconclusive.