There are very few people who can claim responsibility for an entire genre. And then there is Thomas Börje Forsberg, a.k.a. Quorthon.
He did it twice.
Through Bathory’s first four albums in the latter half of the 80s, Quorthon basically built the blueprint for what would inspire much of the Second Wave of Black Metal. All the heavy hitters of that scene – Mayhem, Darkthrone, Emperor, Enslaved and more – were undoubtedly influenced by that early Bathory output.
But the insane thing about that first era of Bathory is just how fucking good it still sounds today. Such was the strength and reach of its influence that something about it still sounds fresh now. That Bathory DNA being passed to those second wave bands mean every black metal band in 2021 is indebted to Bathory.
If this were where the Bathory story ended, it would be an incredible legacy in its own right, but Quorthon wasn’t done yet.
In 1990 Bathory released their fifth album, ‘Hammerheart’. Incorporating more traditional metal influence as well as folk music and Norse themes, it is widely considered the birth of the Viking Metal subgenre.
Bathory continued with this newly minted sound until another pivot for two albums in the mid-nineties. ‘Requiem’ and ‘Octagon’ were out and out thrash albums in the vein of the Bay Area scene. They again demonstrated Quorthon’s shape shifting ability as these albums deftly presented thrash metal as though Bathory had always been a thrash band.
The final era of Bathory, a trio of albums released in 2001, 2002, and 2003, returned to the Viking Metal sound they’d created a decade prior, though bringing some of their previous thrash influence with them. These albums demonstrated Bathory and Quorthon were still creatively fertile and had much more to say.
Sadly, Quorthon left this earthly realm in 2004, and with him went Bathory. The shocking part for me – something I wasn’t aware of until I was researching ahead of this post – Quorthon died at just 38 years old. To consider he was such a pioneer, multiple times over, at so young an age is bittersweet. Quorthon‘s legacy is celebrated and influential to this day, but can you imagine what more he could’ve done with another thirty years? We can only ever dream of what could have been.
After twenty years, a dozen albums, two genres, and untold bands influenced, Bathory’s story was over, but their legacy is forever.