Make no mistake, Bathory’s HAMMERHEART is one of the best metal recordings EVER! When I first heard HAMMERHEART it utterly blew me away. I bought a copy for a friend and didn’t see him again for four months; he said he listened to it EVERY DAY of those four months — it’s that good! This recording is simply the quintessential realization of metal’s potential.
Bathory is, for the most part, a one-man “band” masterminded by ‘Quorthon’, a pseudonym for Ace Thomas Forsberg of Sweden. Forsberg released a total of 12 legitimate Bathory albums and a handful of Bathory compilations (as well as two hard rock recodings under the name ‘Quorthon’). The music on these recordings ranges from black/speed/punk metal to epic/moody/doom/power metal, obviously depending upon Forsberg’s mood. HAMMERHEART is definitely his magnum opus. Please DO NOT judge this album by his other works like the first two satanic/horror/speed platters or the one-dimensional OCTAGON (which was Slayeresque but with lousy production and non-memorable ditties). Trust me, HAMMERHEART stands alone.
The songlist includes:
(1.) “Shores in Flames,” a blow-by-blow account of a savage Viking village-raid.
(2.) “Vahalla” which shares the basics of Norse mythology in an epic way.
(3.) “Baptised in Fire and Ice” which features fitting punkish-styled verse vocals and a brilliantly implemented low-tuned bridge.
(4.) “Father to Son” which starts out calm enough until a startling and crushing start/stop riff speedily kicks in.
(5.) “Song to Hall Up High,” the debut Bathory ballad; Quorthon can’t really sing, of course, but all his vocals strangely fit the music, passionately and naturally.
(6.) “Home of Once Brave” an emotional slow-paced juggernaut marred only be Forsberg’s inexplicable rip-off at the end of the closing riff for “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (still, I admit, it totally fits!).
(7.) lastly, there’s the hallowed “One Rode to Asa Bay” a potent historical relating of how Christianity was introduced to the Viking culture, which was the death-knell of fantastical Norse religion.
“One Rode to Asa Bay” is a long but simple song; it’s also one of my favorite metal pieces, a masterpiece, in fact. It stands up there with the very best metal songs you can possibly cite (e.g. “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” “A Dangerous Meeting,” “Crown of Sympathy,” “The Cry of Mankind,” “A Celebration for the Death of Man/In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion,” “Wings of Time,” “Beyond the Realms of Death,” etc.).
The production isn’t the greatest; in fact, it was literally recorded in a garage in suburban Stockholm (the so-called “Heaven’s Shore Studio” — yeah, right); but it in no way mars this work of genius.
I strongly encourage fans of all styles of metal to add HAMMERHEART to your listening arsenal, unless of course you only prefer bands like Poison and Warrant (giggle).
Personally, I won’t even take calls from supposed metal fans who don’t own HAMMERHEART and hold it dear.