The Return - 1985 - Tyfon
Under The Sign Of The Black Mark - 1987 - Tyfon
Blood Fire Death - 1989 - Under One Flag
Hammerheart - 1990 - Noise
Twilight Of The Gods - 1991 - Black Mark
Requiem - 1994 - Black Mark
Octagon - 1995 - Black Mark
Blood On Ice - 1996 - Black Mark
Nordland I - 2002 - Black Mark
Nordland II - 2003 - Black Mark
S= In Extremis, Solo, Kyss>>QUORTHON [SETH FORSBERG]>>Kyss, Solo
Bathory is the project of one Quorthon a.k.a. Seth Forsberg who was given a chance to bring his Venom (Countess Bathory was a Venom song on 1982’s Black Metal album) and Motörhead-influenced act to the masses via the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation of 1984. Early members included drummer Jonas Åkerlund (1983 to 1984) and singer The Animal (a.k.a. Björn Kristensen). This was one of the many projects of his father Borje Forsberg who ran Tyfon and later founded Black Mark Production, which happened to be a Bathory title. Bathory quickly established itself as an occult, raw, fast and evil black metal entity worshipped by the metal masses. Slagged to death by the critics, Bathory nonetheless forged on to ever-bigger successes even though it was later revealed that the band used mega amounts of studio trickery and synthesizers to achieve the dark sound. First through circumstance and later through design, the 'band' refused to play live. Quorthon denied having played one live show (which occurred in the USA), being the son of Forsberg and many other things.
Indeed he was just going through the motions by the nineties as his solo album showed a man interested in cock rock and Black Mark complained it difficult to get the man to concentrate and record.
He also is a fan of classical music and a part-time club bouncer. Regardless of all the peripherals, Bathory (which only once announced Kothaar and Vvornth as members beside Quorthon) deserves the accolade for its black metal albums (first three) and Viking metal (next three) output. Blood On Ice was written approximately eight years before release, yet had seen many overdubs and alterations before actual release. The Jubileum albums featured their share of unreleased material. An album called Destroyer Of the World had also been announced for several years. 2002's Nordland I was announced as the first of two albums with Nordland II due in 2003. Nordland II with a different version of its predecessor's cover artwork appeared in May, 2003. Thomas "Quorthon" Forsberg was found dead at his apartment in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden on Monday, June 7th 2004. The official cause of death was a heart attack. Rumours indicated the main reason was drug use. Black Mark announced June 3rd, 2006 as the release date for a box set called In Memory Of Quorthon. The package would contain three CDs, one DVD, a book and more.
Primordial’s Alan Nemtheanga, former Mayhemster Blasphemer, Benediction and Cradle Of Filth drummer Nick Barker, Einherjer’s Frode Glesnes and Thyrfing’s Patrik Lindgren formed a Bathory cover band called Twilight Of The Gods in 2010. The band was looking for shows. Swedish film and music-video director Jonas Åkerlund would helm the English-language film "Lords Of Chaos", based on ostensibly true events in the Norwegian black metal music scene in the early 1990s. Åkerlund was the cofounder and early drummer of Bathory, which soon became Quorthon’s band and utilized a drum machine.
BATHORY - NORDLAND I - BLACK MARK
BATHORY - NORDLAND II - BLACK MARK
Quorthon (or Ace Forsberg if you wish) is a man who requires no introduction on the metal scene. Having inspired and disgusted, motivated and distracted bands and individuals since the mid-'80s, the enigmatic Swede has changed gears by releasing 1995’s Octagon and even more surprisingly a grunge/glam album, two moves which must have surely cost him many a fan and come a long way in unraveling the shroud of mystery surrounding his enigma. Keeping these facts in mind, Ali “The Metallian” puts the man on proverbial trial and allows his own words to save or hang him. - 1995
To get the necessities out of the way, I ask Quorthon what the meaning behind his name is. That is surely a good departure point as Quorthon calls me up on early morning from his native Sweden. “Well back in ’83 there was a Swedish hard rock band called Europe. Do you remember them?” questions the front man in the tone of a man eager to talk. “They were very popular, winning contests here, so everybody wanted to be like them. Everybody had stage names like Joey Tempest, Paul Stanley, et cetra. So we figured why not make a joke and come up with names nobody can pronounce - let alone Swedes, 'cause we don’t have the sound! It didn’t mean anything for those who did not want to know, but for those who did Quorthon is one of Satan’s princes who defied the spirit of the Nazarene - that’s how heavily we were into that shit in those days!” Words that well imply some regret over the choice of the names. Qualifies Quorthon: “No, I mean it’s better than 'Dick Head' or Piggy, I remark. “Those bands are gone: Destruction and that.”
Some are gone I remark. Some are also missed. Quorthon begs to differ, “Those bands, like Destruction, Kreator and Possessed are shit bands and assholes! Can you actually listen to a Kreator song without falling into laughter? Well, actually, I shouldn’t say too much. I don’t have any old Bathory albums, but whenever I listen to them I go, 'Oh my God!'
Interesting commentary and one that is guaranteed to raise a stink. As long as we are on the topic of the old days I ask the man regarding the truth behind the Bathory line-up. They were never truly presented although at one point photos were released. “The first Bathory line-up lasted from February ’83 to January ’84,” recalls Quorthon. “We did two song for a compilation (The Scandinavian Metal Attack featuring the classy Spitfire) and thought this is it, it’s a one-off thing, we won’t be able to do anything anymore. As it turned out we were the only band on that compilation to get fan mail. The whole thing was recorded at the same time and I was there when the album was produced. Anyway the record company asked us to do an album on that basis. The only problem was that I didn’t have a band. I had given the other two guys the boot because they listened to totally different music than me. So when I asked some guy to come play for the band the problem was that they looked like David Coverdale or Joey Tempest! For years whenever I wanted to have a band I had to be content with people I knew couldn’t be real Bathory members. So whenever there were pictures published they were mine. So the rumour began that this was a one-man band, a project, while I was fighting hard to form a group. Then I figured there is no sense in trying to have pictures published of people who will be in the band for six months. Then I realized people were actually drawn to the band because of the lack of information, pictures, et cetra. The on Blood, Fire, Death when I actually decided to print a picture of the line-up I had already decided to never tour with Bathory.”
In the meantime it turns out it wasn’t only the band’s line-up, which was subject to extraordinary, circumstances, “by the way, until the formation of Black Mark Production we were never really signed to any label. We were being distributed by Combat in the USA, Banzai in Canada and Music for Nations. But there was nothing written down.”
In the middle of this potpourri, rumour maintained that Black Mark owner Borje Forsberg is none other than Quorthon’s father. It is not the first time the question has been put to the singer and guitarist. “I’ve been hearing that for five years now. He is actually one of the people responsible for the Scandinavian Metal Attack compilation. He always loved music so we used to travel together, et cetra. That’s how the rumour started. For Christ’s sake the guy is 42 years old and I am 30. That means he was 12 when I was born...”
That rumour clarified (or not) I move on to the subject of the 'speed' album recorded by the band in ’88. I am anxious to hear if that album is slated for release. “Two of those songs, Burning Leather and Crawl To The Cross, ended up on the Jubileum album - unmixed too! That was just a souvenir for the fans. I don’t think the album will be released. I don’t think it’s good. There was no heart put into this record.”
Speaking of that, it seems little heart was put into the latest albums, Requiem and Octagon. Regardless, I ask Quorthon to talk about these releases. “Well early ’96 we will actually release Blood On Ice,” answers Quorthon in a tangent. “It’s a theme album which was recorded in sessions in ’87, ’88 and ’89. It’s all Viking shit with big arrangements. Since it was incomplete I had to bring in my old friend on drums, work with computers and record new bass lines plus some new vocals.”
Going back to the latest album Octagon, I ponder again who the album will appeal to. “You’re asking me?” he laughs. “I have no idea. I mean when Madonna puts out a record who buys it? As long as you have an identity (you will sell). You can never accuse Bathory of not having an identity.”
Actually, I can say that you have several identities, ranging from black metal demon to a modern day Viking, to a rock star wanna-be. Quorthon has this notion, “if you didn’t know anything about music and I tell you that I am in a band that has so many albums, changed two million members, went from black metal to doom metal and now I am doing a contemporary noise album based on this Viking theme; we never did a tour, we didn’t have any ambitions and we never signed a contract, and 13 years later I am sitting here doing interviews every day, no one would believe me. I think there must be something going on. These bands who work so hard, tour, et cetra. Where are they now? That doesn’t mean we are the best. But at least if means there is something going on.”
That much is granted and obvious. I am also glad to hear that as a musician you can now live strictly off your art. Still, is it true that you’ve been a bouncer up until recently, not the least of which was the infamous Deicide/Gorefest concert in Stockholm? “I have studied Police Science,” he begins by way of an explanation which reveals the rumours were well founded. “I am not a police officer, but I have a badge and everything. So I went to the concert, and someone had planted a bomb. I was five feet away from it, so my left ear’s hearing is 75% gone. I had wood and tiles all over my ears. Nobody could hear the explosion though because Gorefest was playing! The police and journalists arrive and all of a sudden a few fans recognized me!”
Interesting events (and it seems there is not a lack of them) aside, our chat reverts back to Octagon and in particular the lyrics. The lyrics seem to have taken on a social stance. For example, on Born To Die, you profess your indifference to both Christianity and Satanism. But then again the album cover might give some other ideas! The guitarist has an explanation up his sleeve. “Around the 1400’s the octagon stood for the underground movement fighting against Christianity, because Christianity is like Fascism or Communism - it’s dictator-fucking-ship. I picked the octagon for its symbolism and the fact that it’s our eighth album. I am not Satanic, but I am anti-Christian.
“It’s like these people in Norway,” adds Quorthon continuing on the subject, “I know why they are doing what they are doing. (But) you can’t mix neo-Nazism with paganism with Satanism. All these things contradict each other. If you were living in a Nazi society, you couldn’t have long hair and play in a metal band. If you are a pagan then you cannot accept politics. Those guys were sending me fan letters every week when they were younger. When they went to jail they said everything they did was because of Bathory lyrics. So I had a letter from the Norwegian police. Then I asked the record company to send me the CDs so I can read the lyrics and listen to the albums. I wanted to ask myself who I was back then and what did I say. I couldn’t find anything that said kill people and burn churches! So it’s up to everybody to interpret the lyrics. In Psychopath a guy reads the bible literally - this is a true story - and kills some hookers as punishment. When they caught him, he asked, 'what have I done wrong? I just read the bible!' This is the same book that’s in hotel rooms everywhere. Norway is a very conservative and Christian country. Norwegian women go to Sweden for abortions. Pornography is not allowed in Norway. Everyone goes to church on Sunday in Norway. Nobody has gone to church in 200 years in Sweden. There are very different countries. So the Norwegians have a lot to be rebellious against.”
An interesting perspective, yet the topic has to again revert back to the actual music of Bathory. “On both the last albums there are no sound checks whatever. We just got the guitar sound. On all Bathory albums we’ve had some drum machines. On Requiem there are no drum machines. Octagon has a mix, however. But we are not Guns N Roses or Madonna. We just go in the studio and fart. I never pay attention to the guitar sound. The only album where I even rehearsed the solos was on Twilight of the Gods. That’s another reason why we’ve never played live.”
Which again clarifies more about the band, leaving me pondering the future of the band and the short-term implications thereof. Quorthon explains: “Now we’ve done everything and are free. I have done two or three new songs for now and I also have my second solo album ready to record. But now the priority is Blood On Ice...”
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 16.
If you enjoyed this, read Edge Of Sanity