Bathory - Blood On Ice
Black Mark
Epic Metal
11 songs (53:40)
Release year: 1996
Bathory, Black Mark
Reviewed by Ben
Archive review

Ahhhhhhh, ye olde Bathory. One of the undisputed forefathers of Black Metal, their goat head logo is as ubiquitous in the metal scene as the Misfits skull. They are always cited (and rightfully so) by pretty much any band worth a shit in the genre. But there was another side to the band, one that the man himself, QUORTHON, felt would be too "odd" for some of his listeners. This side of Quorthon let loose an album full of epic choirs, a massive narrative, crazy sound effects and immersive lyrics, and most importantly, clean singing. Because of this drastic departure in style, Quorthon shelved Blood On Ice until almost a decade later after the "Viking Era" of the band became accepted with albums such as Hammerheart and Blood Fire Death. With those albums, the transition in style to that found on Blood On Ice was a bit more gradual and Quorthon felt the time was right in 1996 to finally unleash this massive epic unto the world.

There should be a slight clarification when using the misnomer Viking Metal to describe this album. This is more like "Conan The Barbarian" metal. As well as the story's intro being directly lifted from the movie (at least Quorthon admits this in the massive booklet), the plot itself consists of one man and a mission. So in that regards, Quorthon's slightly off key singing that is filled with passion, conviction, and purpose really brings to mind a picture of a lone warrior on an epic solitary quest through the harsh winter wilderness in full living color.

After some sound effects and hoofbeats in the intro, there is an explosion of Gregorian choirs that sound full of portending doom. Quorthon describes an attack on a village that leaves one lone survivor in the form of a child, our protagonist. There's a hefty chunk of actual spoken narration and this track is basically a stage setter for the rest of the album. Kind of awkwardly the next song, Man Of Iron, is an acoustic ballad about the main guy growing up and working out and getting jacked up. It's a reflective piece where the main guy goes, "I've grown up and now I'm pissed." One Eyed Old Man is this crazy seventies acid rock song mixed with metal choirs. The guitar solos sound straight out of the Kiss playbook. After the titular one eyed old man tells our hero what he needs to do in order to arm himself up for battle with the beast that ravaged his village many moons ago, Quorthon lets out the most absolutely triumphant, "YEAAAAAHH!" ever put on record. It's so bad ass, he does it again.

The middle of the album has some decently serviceable songs. The Sword is a rather nice mid tempo pounder of a song that feels like the pounding of blacksmith on his anvil. The drums accentuate this heavily. However, when we get to The Lake we come across a monster of a song. In this we have the main guy contemplating what he has to do, which is tear out his eyes and throw them into this mystical lake. When his eyes come to rest on the bottom he will have the power to see the sight of these magical ravens so he can see "no matter near or far." The chorus is filled with such a sense of wonderment and awe at what he will be able to see, yet there is this feeling of remorse at having to tear out his own eyes on faith and then see shit all weirdly like our lord Keanu did after he became blinded by that dastardly chode Agent Smith. For the most part, The Lake is a contemplative ballad that has a huge surge in energy whenever the incredible chorus comes around. Gods Of Thunder Of Wind And Of Rain is perhaps the most "typical" song on here when it comes to expecting "traditional" Viking Metal. This has it all, from a driving beat that pounds you into dust, to huge choirs, lyrics about the olden gods, all that jazz is here. Coming in at track nine on any other album this particular song might fall into the cracks of generic filler. However, since there is so much experimentation going on throughout the majority of Blood On Ice a "typical" track at this juncture is exactly what the listener is craving! Wow! Thought being put into album sequencing! We eventually come to the conclusion with The Revenge Of The Blood On Ice and it coolly starts off the same way the very first song began. This adds to the feel of coming full circle, and after a ten minute epic the album is over.

Blood On Ice is largely an outlier in Bathory's immense catalog. While not sounding cheap, it definitely does not have the budget that the Nordland albums had and it isn't seen as part of the band's "genre spawning" work either. Despite all this, there was a shit ton of time and effort and energy put into every aspect of this album. The liner notes are enormous! Quorthon goes into a detailed history of the album, the band, recording in a shack where the neighbor mowing his lawn made into the album mixes, all sorts of cool stuff. It was evident the man put forth his best in everything, even a "failed, shelved album." Blood On Ice is a hidden gem, a lost jewel, a secret endboss of an album.

Killing Songs :
Blood On Ice, One Eyed Old Man, The Lake, Gods Of Thunder Of Wind And Of Rain
Ben quoted 93 / 100
Other albums by Bathory that we have reviewed:
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 - Hammerheart reviewed by Jeff and quoted CLASSIC
Bathory - Nordland II reviewed by Jay and quoted 71 / 100
To see all 8 reviews click here
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