By Stefan (Havukruunu)
I could never do five-album lists. Be it heavy, electronic, rap, classical or progressive. There are too many influences behind Havukruunu, but there is only one that changed my life so dramatically and influenced my playing and overall perception of music so much that it affected the whole existence of Havukruunu. That influence is the mighty fucking Bathory. Or, the man behind it all, Quorthon.
To remember and honor the life’s work of one weird Swedish motherfucker, I hereby present the Top 5 Bathory Albums That Changed My Life. Or, rather shaped what Havukruunu is today! Let’s burn some fucking leather!
5. Bathory — Bathory (1984, Black Mark Production)
Bathory made me see that you can actually make legitimate stuff with very limited resources. The cheap production only highlights Quorthon’s talent. I argue 99 percent of metal bands wouldn’t hold up with such a rotten and eerie soundscape. Especially with lazy playing. The nervous energy, aggression, and enthusiasm makes Bathory’s self-titled debut and black metal what it is—and should be! Bathory’s debut, for a very young me, was hugely inspiring and encouraging. The goat whispered to me, that if you put all bets on the riffs and evil atmosphere, it will work out. The goat was right!
4. Bathory — The Return…… (1985, Black Mark Production)
The second Bathory album is ridiculously dark. It sounds like the depths of hell. We used to listen to it at our rehearsal space while on stolen sleeping pills and vodka—don’t do it, kids. The music felt like it was a hauntingly physical, with sort of gelatinous evil presence, while we were in and out of consciousness. The atmosphere is inevitable. You cannot escape the darkness! I think I still have cassettes of me and my friends trying to emulate the thick and sinister sound, when we were sober enough, but never could come even close. Maybe we shouldn’t have sobered up at all. The Return…… was frightening and felt very real to us. Satan is present. Yet, he is unseen.
3. Bathory — Under the Sign of the Black Mark (1987, Under One Flag)
I have always tried to figure out what exactly it is you have to do to make an album sound like this. Maybe it’s the fact you’re trying to hide your lousy sounding electronic drum pads in the mix, and then it accidentally becomes this weird, intimidating, cavernous blur of shitty drums, razorblade guitars, and the sickest snarly machine-gun vocal performances of all time. Under the Sign of the Black Mark—like the self-titled debut album—made it very clear to me that you have to have limits. If you can do anything you want in an expensive studio, you become lazy. This album is the reason I do not have professional equipment and have to overcome technical issues with creativity. The truth is: you don’t put the effort in if you are not passionate about what you are trying to achieve.
2. Bathory — Blood Fire Death (1988, Under One Flag)
Was the first Bathory album I listened to. I remember reading about Bathory in a Finnish magazine, and they used the Blood Fire Death “band” photo on the article. The absurd photo of three half-naked, skinny men holding swords on a mountainside, plus the imagery of their album covers and the elusive answers Quorthon gave, intrigued me enough to instantly go to a local record store and demand them to order the 13-year old me a copy of Blood Fire Death. I never dreamt that music could be so moving. To make you shiver to your bone at times and make your blood boil at others. I was thoroughly moved. From the haunting and ominous soundscapes of “Odens Ride over Nordland” to the last bombastic hits of “Blood Fire Death” and the eerie howl of the outro, I think I held my breath the whole time. I still do.
1. Bathory — Hammerheart (1990, Noise Records)
I was a very tired and anxious young man. Hammerheart has always been the most uplifting and healing medicine I’ve ever had. Its heaviness remains unchallenged to this day; it is hugely influential in the groundbreaking multitrack vocals, arrangements, and sound effects. However, these are all merely effects. Underneath all the studio trickery remain solid and honest heavy rock songs that are larger than life. If Hammerheart was played on acoustic guitar and only one vocal track, it would still bring mountains down.
For changing my life: Twilight of the Gods for the heaviness, Requiem for the intense and harsh guitar playing, Blood on Ice for all those cleverly disguised pop songs, Nordland I & II for just being there for me, Bathory’s Scandinavian Metal Attack participation, and the Jubileum albums for all the special and unreleased tracks. To a lesser extent but to some extent still, I would like to thank Octagon and Destroyer of Worlds. Maybe the half-hearted productions and rushed songwriting are a part of what happened there.
** Havukruunu’s excellent new album, Uinuos Syömein Sota, is out now on German-originated (but now operating out of Finland) indie Naturmacht Productions. Physical versions are sold the fuck out, but Naturmacht Productions are currently in repress mode. In the meantime, hit up Havukruunu’s Bandcamp site to listen and buy digital copies (HERE) with your shirt off and your, uh, sword out! Like Quorthon, of course.