Wolcensmen is the solo project of Dan Capp. Dan is also guitarist with UK black metal heroes, Winterfylleth, who have just released their first ever live album. In the first of a (hopefully) reoccurring feature involving artists and musicians proclaiming their love of their favourite artists and musicians, Dan writes about why he loves Bathory.
Why do I love Bathory? Here’s why: It was the unshakeable, stubborn vision of one man who helped to define, if not invent, two sub-genres of metal: black metal and Viking metal. That level of profundity only occurs when you are a trailblazer, following your heart and soul; creating what best expresses that deeper part of your self at the expense of adhering to current trends. And that’s what Quorthon did.
I remember quite vividly my earliest experiences of Bathory. I’d been introduced to the music by my friend Steve when I was about 14-15 I think, in the late ‘90s. Steve had insisted on blasting the song ‘One Eyed Old Man’ from the album ‘Blood On Ice’, talking about how ‘punk’ it was. I was pretty heavily into punk and hardcore at the time, so perhaps this was his way of getting through to me with more of the good music he favoured. It worked! That album became an obsession. I had it copied onto cassette and played it on my Walkman any time I caught a train or walked to a friend’s house. I came to know the ebb and flow of the album intimately; The punk style of ‘One Eyed Old Man’ and ‘Gods of Thunder of Wind and of Rain’, the soaring epic grandiosty of ‘The Lake’ and the acoustic bard-like sermon of ‘Man of Iron’ (which I would go on to cover with Wolcensmen, live and on the ‘Songs from the Mere’ EP).
‘Blood On Ice’ was different to the other Scandinavian black metal I’d been introduced to and loved, though I could hear the connection and sensed the same spirit running through it. For a while, Bathory was the only metal I listened to with any considerable amount of melodic vocals, and that’s why I can be quite certain that the melodic music I write with Wolcensmen would not exist without Quorthon’s influence.
Over the next year or two I became familiar with the albums ‘Blood Fire Death’ (which I named my band merch company after) and ‘Hammerheart’. Admittedly it wasn’t until some years later that I came to know ‘Twilight of the Gods’ or the ‘Nordland’ albums. Remember, this was the era when no-one had immediate unlimited access to any and all music via online streaming. When you could afford to buy just one or two new CDs per month you tended not to become familiar with a band’s whole catalogue overnight. Also, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a bigger fan of the ‘Viking period’ (‘Blood Fire Death’ onwards). Whilst I enjoy the earlier Satanic black metal albums, and know well their importance, I just don’t get as much of a kick out of them. I’m drawn to melodies and hooks, and I do believe Quorthon’s songwriting and song-structuring abilities became more refined later on.
The audio production on Bathory albums was unique too. Quorthon wrote a bit about that in the liner notes for ‘Blood on Ice’, which was recorded in two sessions several years apart. There’s something about the combination of snappy, compressed drums, Conan-choirs, unrefined vocals and occasional musty synth sound that combines to create something so full of life. It feels like it belongs to a time before Pro-Tools and social media; it does…and I love that. It has a spirit lacking from so much of today’s metal.
Bathory taught me the importance of hooks and rhythms. His riffs almost always incorporated some kind of catchy rhythm or ‘fill’ which made it as memorable as the notes and chords within each part. Pounding drums always emphasised that too. There’s no point writing a riff or vocal melody that isn’t somehow memorable. If you hadn’t guessed, ‘Blood on Ice’ is my favourite Bathory album, and that’s partly because it’s a concept-album. This was definitely a big inspiration behind the new Wolcensmen concept album, ‘Fire in the White Stone’. I’ll wear that influence clearly and proudly on my sleeve.
Bathory was, and always will be, one of a kind.
My top five Bathory songs:
1. The Lake (Blood on Ice)
2. Blood and Iron (Twilight of the Gods)
3. A Fine Day to Die (Blood Fire Death)
4. Man of Iron (Blood on Ice)
5. Baptised in Fire and Ice (Hammerheart)
Many thanks to Dan for taking the time to profess his love of Bathory for At The Barrier. It’s superb to celebrate the artists you love with zero negativity.
Our review of the album is here.
You can also peruse the wares of Dan’s band merchandise site, Blood Fire Merch, here.